Coach's shove of player renews debate about conduct of athletic officials
A coach's conduct in a men's basketball game Wednesday has renewed a debate over whether colleges are tough enough (or tough at all) on coaches whose conduct embarrasses their institutions.
Morehead State University suspended its basketball coach, Sean Woods, for one game, amid an uproar over an incident in a game Wednesday when he shoved a player who had fouled out, and then yelled at the player at such length and with such intensity that the player appeared near tears.
Brian Hutchinson, director of athletics, said in a statement that "we recognize that the young men in our basketball program are students first and athletes second. It is our expectation that our coaches are first teachers, who reflect the core values of the university which includes valuing the individual and treating people with respect. Near the end of the game, Coach Woods’ interaction with one of our student-athletes fell short of that value and was unacceptable." Woods issued a statement saying: "My behavior during Wednesday night’s game was inappropriate and unacceptable. I am truly sorry.... I can assure our student-athletes, university community, alumni and fans that anything approaching this type of situation will not happen again."
Many columnists are saying that the university did not go nearly far enough in punishing its coach.
Patrick Rishe, a Forbes columnist on the business of athletics and a professor of economics at Webster University, called for Woods to be fired (even before the university announced any sanction). "As a university professor, I would be on my butt without a job this morning if I were to treat a student in this manner for performing poorly on an exam or causing a disturbance in my class … as would any of my colleagues." Coaches must be held to the same ethical standards, and Coach Woods did not meet those standards Wednesday night, he wrote.
After the suspension was announced, Rishe wrote a piece in which he said the university's president and athletics director had made a "feeble and gutless response to a crisis that required leaders with backbone and gumption." Rishe wrote that the university's leaders did not seem to understand that "[p]hysical contact by an adult towards a student-athlete is 100 percent unacceptable behavior" and that "apart from the physical contact, the excessive nose-to-nose yelling was an embarrassing eye-sore in front of a packed house and nationally televised audience that shamed Coach Woods and the university’s brand." (Wayne Andrews, president of Morehead State, did not respond to an e-mail asking for his reaction to the criticism.)
A Fox columnist, Billy Witz, suggested a better punishment for the coach: "[S]it Woods in a chair at center court before Monday’s game against Norfolk State in front of a bank of television cameras and an arena full of fans, having to listen as his athletic director and school president poke him in the chest and then tear into him about what an embarrassment he is, about how lucky he is to still be employed, and how he better win an awful lot if he expects this stepping-stone of a job to lead anywhere."
Here is a video of the incident:
Others have noted that Woods is not the only coach caught on video during the fall of 2012.
There was Tommy Tuberville, football coach at Texas Tech University, who ripped the headset off a graduate assistant during a game:
The commissioner of the Big 12 conference reprimanded Tuberville for the incident.
And if you think the solution to the problem is to tell coaches to just "use your words," you may want to view this video of Dave Christensen, the University of Wyoming football coach, who was suspended for one game (and fined $50,000) for the words he used after a game against the Air Force Academy. WARNING: Video includes repeated use of the f-word.