Growing up a Texas Rangers fan, there haven’t exactly been a whole lot of memorable moments. Sure, there were the mid to late 90s era teams with Juan Gone and that bunch who won three division titles, receiving the honor of being reverse cowgirl’d by the Yankees in the post season, but since then the Stars have won a Stanley Cup, the Mavs were robbed of a title, and the Cowboys… well, they’ve been the Cowboys. Bottom line, those 90s glory days seem about as far gone as Jerry Jones’ original face. So when the story recently broke about Ron Washington’s cocaine use last season, I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. On one hand – and this is taking the story at face value, which, if you have any stitch of common sense, you know is bullshit – why would an organization employ a nearly sixty year old man who is dumb enough to try cocaine for the first time while at the height of his profession, at such an advanced age, and in the middle of a pennant race? But on the other, hey, the guy owned up to his mistake, he went through the treatment and he left his fate in the hands of management who decided to retain him. I wasn’t familiar with Ron Washington in his playing days, so I’d never seen THE picture that I’m hoping most of you have now seen, so I guess more than anything I was just surprised. Actually, shocked is more like it. But while I’m not sure which side of this to buy into, I do know one thing – as a coach of an organization that is located in the same city as a University that is widely regarded as having the most rampant cocaine addicts in the southwest, we shouldn’t have exactly been surprised.
Let that segue sink in and just go with it.
Opening up the Dallas Morning News is pretty much a crapshoot these days when it comes to SMU coverage. Sometimes you open it up and see a scathing article about Matt Doherty’s lack of success as a basketball coach. Others you open it up and think that June Jones has the second coming of the Doak Walker –era Mustangs warming up on the Hilltop. But, if there’s any consistent reporting in that rag, it’s that they rarely let any stones regarding SMU’s rampant drug use remain unturned.
You may remember the story of an SMU student found dead in his dorm room last year – yes yes, I realize there are a lot of those stories, but this one is the most recent – and that “drugs may have been involved,” which is kind of like saying that Gary Patterson held a practice this week and yelling may have been involved. That makes the SWW running tally of SMU deaths officially reach numbers that I will need two hands to document properly, which, to my mind, officially makes drugs at SMU an “epidemic.”
Now, I know we’ve made mention of another relatively recent drug related death at SMU which involved the victim being dumped into a port-a-potty somewhere around Waco after the dealer who supplied the drugs became spooked. I’m not going to get back into that right now, but I just wanted to make sure that seed is firmly planted. But did you know that in 2006 alone SMU had two other students die of drug related causes? Because SMU sure doesn’t want you to remember; lucky for you, I recently dusted off an old Texas Monthly article pertaining to SMU’s laizzes faire attitude towards students killing themselves with drugs on their campus, which, in light of this latest reveal, makes the story all the more relevant.
The gist of the story is this: A student at SMU dies of a drug overdose. His parents ask questions. The police and the SMU administration beat around the bush. When the parents ask more questions, SMU refuses to answer them and instead paints their son as a raging drug addict who was one bad apple who spoiled the bunch. The police refuse to investigate. The administration refuses to investigate. Meanwhile, more and more of the victim’s former friends are coming forward about the incident and speaking out regarding the drug culture present at the school. The picture they paint – think of it akin to Van Gogh’ “Starry Night” as that, the students at SMU do so many drugs that whenever they look outside, their vision is that fucked – is a magnificent cornucopia of negligence, blind eyes, denial and, of course, lots and lots of blow.
If we’re taking this story through the eyes of the victim’s parents, their son was a good kid who didn’t get in trouble much in high school who then comes to SMU, is completely consumed by the drug culture and is eventually killed by it. I’m not so biased against SMU as to overlook the fact that parents these days have no problem passing the blame when it involves their children, but the details outlining the incident, coupled with the opinions of other students makes it hard to say otherwise.
For instance, in a poll conducted among SMU students, over FIFTY PERCENT said that they believed that the typical SMU student was at least a “casual” cocaine user. The word “casual” may throw you off, but be advised, we’re not talking about someone being a “casual” golfer or a “casual” doll house furniture enthusiast – if you’re snorting coke in your spare time, you’re either in or you’re out. It’s not like you’re having one beer at the end of your day to wind down; you’re introducing a substance into your body that can potentially kill you on the first dose and, if that doesn’t happen, makes your nose run and gives the user an ear for disco music. Or at least that’s what I hear. So, let’s be frank – the poll says that over 50% of SMU students are coke heads.
But, if a poll isn’t what you’re looking for in making your judgment, consider the events surrounding the event.
Two weeks before Jake Stiles-the focus of the story- overdosed on cocaine, one of his close friends– Clark Scott -got his Ron Washington on during a fraternity trip to Galveston, was catatonic for 2 days, blacked out and had to be rushed to the hospital, and on the third day instead of rising again, was pulled out of school and moved back home. Want a direct quote? “I had to get out…I was going to kill myself if I didn’t.” Now we can’t be sure if he’s talking about killing himself with drug use or killing himself because of his association with such a foul institution, but I think we can assume the former.
Right before that, another student Jack Britton, had to be admitted to the hospital for kidney failure due to excessive drug use. I’m not expert on human dialysis, but I’m pretty sure no one under the age of 70 that isn’t diabetic should have kidney failure. That’s a shitload of drugs. And forgot to even mention the kid who passed out in his shower and had to be rescued by friends before he drowned. Maybe he was just tired?
I’m not saying those things should’ve been a wake-up call to the school that they had a problem on their hands… but they should’ve probably been a wake-up call to the school that they had a problem on their hands.
But, like I said, unfortunately when you’re in, you’re in and even the near death of a close friend isn’t able to deter many SMU students from their end game. In fact, one of the kids interviewed for the story said that he would’ve liked to have spoken out more about the drug use, but that all it got him was ridicule, so he was almost afraid to. Now I, like many of you, know people who have done coke before, but have you ever really felt that if you refrained you’d be cast off from your immediate group of friends? I didn’t think so. The best part, though, comes when he describes a chapter meeting called immediately following Stiles’ death where the “solution” was to limit drug usage in the house. When one member stood up and suggested that maybe everyone should stop using altogether, he was apparently met with a reaction similar to how we would greet an SMU alum suggestion that SMU will become the team to beat in the metroplex. In other words, surely you jest, sir!! Take into account, a kid had just died! In their house! Oh, but I get it – he could’ve brought the whole operation down. His death was more of a burden than a tragedy. Now the school would have their eyes open, so better to not get caught. Compassion up!
Hands down though, the way the school handled the situation is what really makes this story kick, what really outlines the “SMU Experience” for those fortunate enough to become immersed in it. For one thing, the school didn’t really give the investigation much of a chance. Like I said, they simply tried to pass the buck on the victim, making it look like an isolated incident, and just hoped it would go away. Naturally, it didn’t, but when the victim’s parents decided to take the investigation into their own hands, the school, after having been so “cooperative” at first, stopped responding to the parents’ inquiries for information. In fact, they pretty much shut down the investigation and invoked their right to privacy regarding the evidence – apparently the police department of a private institution is not subject to transparency laws regarding investigations and is not legally obligated to turn over any information. Remember that next time the TCU Police hassle you – even if you aren’t guilty of the crime you supposedly committed, they can still hang you out to dry because they don’t have to produce any evidence.
Let’s imagine how a normal school, one that isn’t completely ransacked by turpitude, would handle the situation and that SMU – in a magical world, like I said – handed over all the information and allowed the Stiles’ to take a look for themselves. All of the major players involved in the investigation – the head of student life and the head of the SMU police – are no longer employed by SMU, having moved on to other jobs. So you know they’re not of much help. And, to top it off, they didn’t even pass on the major details of the investigation to their successors. The most crucial piece of evidence the school had – a string of text messages between the victim and some of his bros leading up to the incident where he describes his drug use and drug transactions that had recently taken place – were completely discarded by the SMU police department. This despite the fact that the victim’s family still posseses his cell phone which shows that the SMU police officer who was handling the investigation forwarded these text messages to his own email address. But, like I said, the officer who took the messages now works at Vanderbilt in a similar position – think SMU MIGHT have written him a pretty sterling recommendation to get him out of town? – and is not being cooperative. In fact, he says he’s never even seen the messages. Needless to say, they aren’t in the police report.
What the messages apparently outlined was that Stiles had taken a drug called “fentanyl,” which is apparently like an extremely wacky version of morphine, right before he died and which he had obtained from another student, Austin Bryan. They also apparently contained enough information to incriminate at least 5 other SMU students on drug charges simply from 48 hours worth of text messages. But, as it turns out, the school didn’t look into the matter because they wanted to protect the students involved. Now, I’m not saying the school should’ve used this as an opportunity to clean house because, honestly, had they busted those five kids, they would’ve admitted ten more the next year. But, they potentially had a direct link to the individual who supplied the victim with the fatal drug… and they didn’t even investigate it! In fact, the new administration, hoping to rectify the wrongs of those who were handling the situation before them by meeting with the Stiles family and presenting them with the evidence they had, hadn’t even heard of the guy.
You might read this and think, “Ok, well, it’s kind of dick of you to exploit an unfortunate situation just to rip on SMU” but consider the timing. As this incident was boiling over, SMU was a finalist for the new George Bush Presidential Library. This may not sound like a big deal but, considering there are only forty three ex-Presidents, and I’m not sure they all even have their own library, yeah, it’s a pretty big deal. Especially when you consider the money it would bring in. I’ve sounded off on here before on how ignorant Bush is to associate his legacy – already tarnished – with a school with such a checkered history, but the fact that SMU opted to cover up a glaring drug problem in order to gain the library is even more reprehensible.
However, not wanting to be completely one sided – I prefer “casually” objective – I wanted to take a look at SMU’s reaction to this article, so I went straight to the most credible source
While I’ve pretty much given you the overall synopsis of the article, I absolutely urge you to read it yourself to give some clarification to what I’ve written. How is this not more of an issue? How is Ron Washington crawling out from under his newspaper to smoke some rock more of an issue than the major University in town allowing kids to die from drug overdoses on their own property? I’ve said all along that the easy answer is that they’re looking the other way in order to maintain their credibility, but I think the problem runs deeper than that. I think the school literally has no control. I don’t think they have any clue how to handle it. And, honestly, I don’t think they’re too concerned. Jack Britton, the aforementioned student with kidney failure, puts it best, ““Drug use and alcohol abuse was just kind of the culture,” And it’s really as simple as that. It’s just part of the culture, and SMU has simply laid down and accepted it. Would you tell a Samoan that they had to get a haircut? Would you tell a Christian they couldn’t’ have a Jesus Fish on their car? No. Because it’s so far ingrained into the culture that they identify with that it’d be an affront to tell them to change. If this was taking place anywhere but a college campus – like say, a bar or a club – that place would be shut down with the key thrown away. If this were taking place anywhere other than the richest part of the D/FW area, it would be shut down. Unfortunately the pockets and influence at that school are deep enough to cover up even the vilest of transgressions. It’s not right, but it’s the reality of the situation. That’s how it’s always been. And that’s how it always will be. How many more kids will have to fall victim to that culture before the administration finally gets it?
And that’s today’s lesson in SMU Hate.