This article will explore the concept of ethics within the college coaching profession. It will discuss the concept of holding the coaches responsible for their unethical behavior along with the Universities. Today, more than ever, the pressure for a coach to win in college sports is overwhelming. Many times the pressure to win or the drive to get the next big job and/or pay raise, causes coaches to feel the need to step over the ethical line. An example of coaches crossing the line can be seen when their program is winning at a high level and they are being treated as Gods by the school, students and fans. This God complex makes these coaches feel as they can do no wrong and that they are above the law. There are so many student athletes that are in need of guidance, so what are these coaches teaching the athletes? So, what is a coach? A coach is one who fills many different rolls. He is a teacher, mentor, role model and sometimes a friend or confidant. In Kerkhoff (2013) Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, referred to his group’s Code of Ethics. Article 2, Section 2 states that a coach should conduct himself so as to maintain the principles, integrity and dignity of his institution, Teaff went on to add, The second article which I think applies and is very important is Article 8, Section 1. It states that it’s vitally important that a coach’s actions and behavior at all times bring credit to himself, his institution and the game of football. When you think about college coaches today, coaches such as Pete Carroll, Joe Paterno, Jim Tressel, and Bruce Pearl come to mind. What do these coaches have in common besides their proven ability to win at the highest level? It is that they practice unethical behaviors and have no regard for the rules that are in place. What are the consequences for these coaches? All four of these coaches were either fired or let go from their programs. Bruce Pearl was fired and Jim Tressel resigned because they lied to the NCAA to cover up rules infractions. Pete Carroll left the University of Southern California to coach in the National Football League just as the NCAA applied sanctions to the University for his actions while coaching and Joe Paterno, who was considered as one of the best college coaches ever, helped to cover up the actions of a convicted child molester. In all cases, the coaches were fired and the Universities were left holding the bag. That’s what is crazy about these situations. The universities and the students are the ones who suffer the consequences. Once the investigation is completed the coaches have usually moved on to another job and the students are the ones who pay the price. They are the ones that are left to work through the punishments handed down. With respect to the four coaches I listed earlier, Bruce Pearl and Jim Tressel are both able to coach but haven’t returned. Pearl is an analyst for CBS and Tressel is now the vice president for student success at Akron, where he teaches a course on coaching. Pete Carroll just won the Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks and Joe Paterno is now dead. The NCAA is finally starting to address this problem with a new enforcement structure that is supposed to dramatically change the way it punishes these unethical coaches in college athletics. These changes that took effect Aug.1 2013 mean that coaches will finally be held accountable for infractions that happen under their watch. It also means that these coaches could be penalized in a way that follows them if they change jobs. In Auerbach (2012), NCAA President Mark Emmert stated, we have sought all along to remove the ‘risk-reward’ analysis that has tempted people-often because of the financial pressures to win at all costs- to break the rules in the hopes that either they won’t be caught or that the consequences won’t be very harsh if they do get caught. Hopefully this new plan will work, but why has it taken so long? Mandel (2007) stated, cheating in college football is a tradition as old as the sport itself. In fact, it’s hard to imagine one without the other. Scandal is almost as much a part of the sport’s culture as tailgating and fight songs. It is sad, but it is true. These new rules might curb the behavior of these unethical coaches until they find that ever present loophole and they’ll be up to their old games. In Associated Press (2012) David Ridpath, past president of The Drake Group stated, it sounds nice in theory but until I see a big-time coach like (John) Calipari or somebody get suspended for a year, I will not believe this will do anything. In conclusion, the NCAA has finally added some consequences to make sure their rules are followed and for this I give them credit. The big question is, will they adjust these rules when the rule-breaking coaches find the loopholes? My suggestion is to let them use the loopholes, slip it around their necks and let them hang themselves.
Associated Press. (2012). NCAA Approves Tougher Sanctions. Retrieved from: http://espn.go.com/college-sports/story/_/id/8572310/ncaa-approves-tougher-sanctions-rule-breakers
Auerbach, N. & Wolken, D. (2012). NCAA Overhauls Enforcement Rules. USA Today Sports. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/SPORTS/usaedition/2012-10-31-NCAA-approves-changes-in-infractions-enforcement_ST_U.htm