AUSTIN, Texas — The number of drug tests administered to Texas football players has skyrocketed under first-year coach Charlie Strong, according to university data obtained by the Austin American-Statesman through an open records request.
According to university records, an average of 104 tests were administered annually to football players from 2010 to 2013, the last four years under former coach Mack Brown. A total of 188 tests were administered the first eight months this year under Strong, a former Gators assistant. At an annualized rate, that's more than double the previous four years.
Texas athletes know they can be drug tested at any time for any reason. The school's 2014-15 student-athlete handbook states that athletes "may be tested numerous times during any given academic year."
The entire football team was drug tested in March just after spring break, said Allen Hardin, an associate athletics director who oversees UT's sports medicine and drug testing program. Then, Strong and the medical staff started looking for possible repeat offenders. "We identify those who are more at-risk and they are tested more frequently," said Hardin, who is in his 18th year on campus. He reports directly to women's athletic director Chris Plonsky.
A total of 104 drug tests were administered from March 19-28, according to university records. Then on April 11, another 18 players were tested. Two tests were administered on April 30, and one more came on May 3. Players were tested during the summer, as 15 tests were administered on July 19. Two players were tested on Aug. 11, right in the middle of training camp as the players and coaches were living together in the dorms.
Seven more came on Aug. 22 and another seven players were tested the day before the season opener against North Texas, according to records. Brown usually tested players in the spring and mid October, but never during training camp or before the season opener, records indicate.
According to Longhorns' drug policies, urine samples or oral fluid samples are tested for substances currently banned by the NCAA, which include stimulants, anabolic steroids, street drugs, diuretics and other masking agents. The handbook states there is no complete list of banned drug examples.
The Big 12 and NCAA routinely conduct random drug tests at their championship events. Failed tests could result in a yearlong suspension. The NCAA puts the burden on individual schools to test during the school year. The UT handbook does not specify a minimum number of tests an athlete would be subjected to during the year. The NCAA claims to spend $5 million annually on drug testing and education programs.
Strong declined comment. However, he's taken a well-known, hard-line approach to drugs since coming to Texas. At the preseason kickoff banquet on Aug. 14, he told the crowd, "We drug test here." The overall numbers of drug tests administered reportedly spiked the coach's first year at Louisville in 2010, too.
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"You have 95 percent of the guys that's doing it right, and then you have a small faction of guys that just feel like, 'Hey, this is the way I'm going to do it whether you like it or not,' " Strong said Tuesday night, after practice. "I just tell them there are other teams out there, but this isn't the school for you."
Cost doesn't appear to be an issue. The athletic department spent approximately $5,100 to $6,600 annually over the past four years on football drug tests. Through eight months this year, the department has spent $8,775 on football drug tests, according to university records.
No. 24 Okla. St. 45, Texas Tech 35: The host Cowboys' Daxx Garman threw for 370 yards and four touchdowns in the Big 12 matchup. Garman was 17-for-31 and ran for a score in his second start since stepping in for the injured J.W. Walsh. Marcell Ateman had career highs of six catches and 130 yards, James Washington had three catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns, and Desmond Roland ran for 86 yards and a score for the Cowboys (3-1, 1-0). Davis Webb passed for 374 yards and four touchdowns for Texas Tech (2-2, 0-1) before leaving the game in the fourth quarter because of a left shoulder injury. The Red Raiders haven't won in Stillwater, Okla., since 2001.
Duke: Backup quarterback Thomas Sirk is questionable for Saturday night's game at Miami with a muscle injury. Coach David Cutcliffe said the redshirt sophomore strained a muscle earlier in the week. He says redshirt freshman Parker Boehme will replace Sirk if he can't play. The Blue Devils frequently bring in a speedy backup quarterback in place of starter Anthony Boone in short-yardage situations.
LOUISVILLE: Freshman Reggie Bonnafon will make his first start at quarterback on Saturday against Wake Forest in place of sophomore Will Gardner, who injured his knee in the third quarter of last weekend's 34-3 victory at Florida International.
Ohio State: Speedy freshman receiver Johnnie Dixon will miss the rest of the season after surgery on both knees. Coach Urban Meyer said Dixon was suffering from tendinitis in both knees, necessitating an operation.
South Carolina: The school will guarantee four-year scholarships to its qualifying NCAA sports, becoming the first in the SEC to make that pledge. It sent out letters to its 383 athletes Thursday, 121 of whom will receive the full four-year guarantee when renewing their scholarships. Those athletes are in what the NCAA calls "headcount" sports of football, men's and women's basketball, and women's tennis and volleyball, where each player receives a full scholarship. The cost of athletic scholarships at South Carolina ranges from $21,461 for an in-state student living on campus to $41,121 for an out-of-state student living off campus.
Notre Dame-Texas A&M: The teams will play a home-and-home series in 2024 and 2025. The Irish and the Aggies will meet Aug. 31, 2024, in College Station and Sept. 27, 2025, in South Bend. They have not faced each other in the regular season since a two-game series in 2000 and 2001.