Eleven players have been charged with criminal activity since Texas won the National Championship Rose Bowl in January, 2006. The off-the-field misconduct, given the relative brevity of the time frame, is unprecedented for a Mack Brown-coached football team.
"I've dealt with more in six months than I've dealt with in 23 years as a head coach," Brown said, "and especially in more than 10 years here."
The most recent accusation occurred Monday when RS-freshman RB James Henry was charged with retaliation and tampering with evidence in connection with an armed robbery last July, allegedly involving former Longhorn safety Robert Joseph and DT Andre Jones. According to Austin Police Department reports, Henry admitted during a recorded telephone conversation with Joseph that he assaulted a victim from the alleged robbery at a southeast Austin apartment for reporting the robbery. Henry added that he had disposed of items allegedly stolen from the property, according to the APD. Henry was booked in the Travis Country Jail with bond set at $30,000.
The Austin Police Department conducted multiple interviews with Henry, including an August 20 conference during the middle of two-a-days. Brown was fully aware, then, that Henry was being questioned.
"We always fully cooperate with the authorities," Brown said. "If anybody wants to talk to somebody on our team, we would normally send them. But that doesn't mean they're a suspect; it means they're being questioned. It means they were being asked about the incident. It's hard to take action (against a player) when there's no charge."
Coaches conferred with Henry following his police interviews, but Brown would not divulge the content of those conversations.
"It involved an investigation and it has to go through the legal process," Brown said. "I cannot divulge what our conversations with James have been."
Last week, Tyrell Gatewood was charged with misdemeanor drug possession after a traffic stop revealed drugs and drug paraphernalia in the vehicle. Gatewood was indefinitely suspended from all team functions. Freshman Ben Wells, a passenger in the car, remains with the team.
On Tuesday, DE Henry Melton and SLB Sergio Kindle returned fully to team functions following a three-game suspension for separate DWI charges last summer. Both had limited participated during practice on scout teams.
Brown issued the following statement before fielding questions from local media:
"The charges against James Henry stem from an incident this summer. Unfortunately, the investigation has taken a long time and James was not charged until yesterday (Monday). That's when we found about it for the July case. I wish we had known sooner so we could have dealt with it at that time. Obviously, we didn't. James is suspended from all team activities. If the incident from this summer is true, it's disturbing. It's been a lingering distraction for me and for all the people involved. I hope and pray that the young men can prove their innocence to get closure in their lives and move forward. If they are guilty, they should be held accountable.
"I've spent 23 years of my life coaching young people and trying to be a great role model for young people to prepare them for life after football. It's been very, very important in my life that we have a team with character that acts responsibly. When someone is accused of trouble or has trouble. it's devastating to me personally. It's something that I feel responsible for because I brought them here. I also feel like I am an extended family member and that I've let the young people down with education and I've let their family members down.
"It's not fair to burden our current players because they're doing a tremendous job on this football team of trying to monitor it. It's the best team we've had in the classroom and they're playing hard on Saturday. It's also unfair to blame our Athletic Department because we have the best Athletic Department in the country. It's sure unfair to blame our great university. Our (university) president, our trustees and The University of Texas do everything with class and they stand for integrity. It's all on me, and it's on me alone. I'm responsible for making all the final decisions at the football office at The University of Texas. It's obvious that I need to be more accountable and do a better job.
"In the case of Sergio Kindle and Henry Melton, we seem to have taken a 'negative' and turned it into a 'positive'. They returned to practice today with a great attitude. All of these situations that are outside of our team are life-changing situations. They're circumstances that may change the course of a person's life forever. In this case, at least in the short term, it's been turned into a 'positive'. They've done everything we've asked them to do and their attitude is really, really good. Hopefully, this very difficult situation will bring our team closer together."
Otherwise, Brown said Tuesday was a good day.
In addition to Kindle and Melton fully returning to team functions, RB coach Ken Rucker returned to practice for the first time following his August 27 operation to treat prostate cancer. ("It was unbelievable. We thought we were going to lose him for the year.") Brown also received a text message at 6:15 a.m. from former TE David Thomas with the news that his wife Cassidy had just delivered their first child (it was a boy).