Former University of Florida head football coach Urban Meyer recently called into question the integrity and role modeling displayed by many of today’s D1 college football coaches, claiming that most succumb to the big money payoffs reaped from building a winning team. Meyer’s accusations have cast light on the regular tasks college coaches are required to do in order to put together winning teams, and as you are about to read these tasks often do challenge ones personal level of integrity.
Common Integrity Tasks for College Coaches
• Recruitment. The biggest revenue producing sports in college are football and mens basketball. Programs who field winning teams earn tens of millions of dollars, making it very worthwhile to do everything possible to win. The problem, however, is that increasingly more high school athletes today are simply not interested in school, or even strict social guidelines for that matter. As a result, college coaches during college recruiting regularly enter homes of kids that blatantly talk about their future goals of going “to the league.” Coaches, therefore, have to either a) convince the youngster of the importance of school, and turn away talented future athletes who they feel won’t cut it, or b) accept these kinds of kids and hope and pray they will stay eligible long enough for the windfall of money that comes with being a top team.
• Finding eligibility majors and classes. As freshman student athletes arrive on campus, they are expected to choose a major and put in the appropriate amount of study time to be eligible to compete (at minimum). Unfortunately, not all student athletes care about this expectation, and some could care less about school at all. Still, even in worst-case situations these student athletes need a major, or possibly one more class to stay eligible with the NCAA. College coaches, therefore, have to temper their conscious when watching their student athletes choose “dummy” majors and classes simply so they can remain eligible and compete.
• Spin jobs and damage control. When you regularly recruit kids who are not tuned in to the academic side of being a student athlete, it shouldn’t be a surprise that future off-field problems and issues are almost certain to occur. Coaches, therefore, must be on 24/7 alert, always ready to face a wave of media and talk about the latest arrest, DUI, gambling issue, theft, or domestic abuse. How much information coaches share, their level of honesty, and with whom they speak to can all become concerns around integrity.
• Alumni relations. College alumni, especially those who are big sport fans, are easy financial targets to college athletic departments when looking for funding for that new field, court, or stadium. As a result, coaches must regularly shmooze up alumni, often working “deals” that teeter on NCAA bylaws and regulations. Car deals are a perfect example of this – and may explain why so many hot “loaners” from dealerships are being driven around campus by 20 year old student athletes.
• Preparing the student athletes who don’t make it for life after sports. It’s always been interesting to me how hot and heavy coaches are when recruiting the “next” great athlete, but rarely can be found when a student athletes career ends and he doesn’t go on to the league. Aftercare programs to help with sport retirement, even in 2011, are rarely available, placing some responsibility on coaches to help their student athletes when things don’t work out. Of course, this is not a legal requirement for coaches, but it is a moral one that centers around integrity.
How Urban Meyer’s level of integrity differs so much from his contemporaries is unclear to me, as it impossible to say how many times he made questionable integrity decisions himself. What is known is that 31 of his student athletes got in trouble with the law under his watch, making it that much more difficult to place him in the “good” group while we scoff at the integrity of his peers.