TCU’s track and field legacy could be in jeopardy because of an NCAA investigation and self-imposed sanctions now in place, said former TCU sprinter and alumnus David Spencer on Wednesday.Spencer was a member of the 2001 NCAA champion 4×100 meters relay team.
The TCU track team has been under investigation since September 2004 from the NCAA for alleged improprieties by former head coach Monte Stratton and his coaching staff.
TCU also has self-imposed sanctions, banning them from postseason competition.
Spencer said he had a fantastic experience at TCU, but it would have been different had he attended TCU while there were sanctions in place.
“I would have transferred,” Spencer said. “If you can do better somewhere else, I believe it is best to transfer to another university.”
TCU’s track and field legacy is well-known, especially at the national level, former TCU track and field standout Jerry Harris said.
Harris, a TCU alumnus, broke the school record in the 400 meters last February and said that when he first heard about TCU, it was at a national competition.
Harris said that if he had been facing sanctions, he would have transferred as well.
“As an incoming athlete being penalized for something I had nothing to do with, I would transfer,” Harris said. “If I was already in the program, I may stick with the team.”
The NCAA investigation and sanctions not only have an impact on whether TCU performs, but also on how TCU performs, Harris said.
“It messes with your confidence, your willingness to work hard, you lose motivation to train,” he said. “You start training in September, and you do not end until June. It can be tough to deal with. You just have to keep your head up.”
Spencer said the main goal of an athlete is to compete at the highest level and then receive a professional contract.
“If you are not able to compete at the highest level, at nationals, why compete?” Spencer said. “Why train?”
TCU track alumni said distractions within TCU’s program are compounded by the lawsuit being filed by former TCU sprinter Jacob Hernandez, who transferred to Texas. Hernandez is suing for his release from TCU.
Brandal Lawrence, who holds the TCU record in the triple jump, said losing a teammate affects the mentality of an athlete.
“When you are on a team, you accept your teammate as a friend,” Lawrence said. “He also becomes part of your family.”
Steve Slowly, also a member of TCU’s 2001 NCAA Champion 4×100 meters relay unit and a TCU alumnus, said that if one of his teammates who was an asset to the team transferred, he would be upset. Hernandez was the Conference USA’s 2005 Track and Field Freshman of the Year.
“You need everybody you can to win a championship,” Slowly said.
Despite all the turmoil surrounding the TCU track and field program, there is hope for the future and TCU can regain its name, Slowly said. “You just have to start over again, just look forward.”
Spencer echoed Slowly’s faith in TCU.
“TCU has always been one of the top track schools in the nation,” Spencer said. “TCU will come back. I advise the athletes to give their best, and understand that in track and field, giving your best is progress. You just have to work hard.