By Dr. Howard Gauthier
Recently, one of our graduate students, Brad, presented an issue to our sports philosophy class and wondered what our moral responsibility was as leaders and coaches in this situation. Our student is a head high school football coach for one of the best high school programs in the state. The other night they played a game against a conference opponent that was an inferior team.
Brad’s team at the time was 8-1, ranked in the top five in the state, and had an average margin of victory of seven points. The opponents on the other hand were 0-9 and have gotten beaten badly every game. As the game unfolded, Brad’s team jumped out to an early lead and the score was beginning to get out of control. Brad played his starters for only one quarter before putting his second unit into the game. By halftime the game was out-of-reach for the opponents as the score was 49-0. The third and fourth quarters were the same lopsided affair even though Brad played his third unit the entire second half.
In the second half, Brad’s team didn’t throw a pass. They played a very conservative running game, but kept scoring anyway. The final score was 77-0. After the game, the coaches from the opposing team complained to Brad’s athletic director and principal that Brad had run the score up on them. The coach claimed that Brad’s team should just have been taking a knee and downing the ball every snap in the second half, or that the game should have been called off at halftime. On Monday morning Brad was called into the principal’s office and asked to explain himself.
Brad shared with his principal that he played every player – the team only had three units of players on this 65-player squad. In addition, the opponents kept going for fourth down – even when they were inside their own 20-yard line. Brad was frustrated because the opposing coach was not qualified to coach football at the high school level, and he didn’t even have a game plan. He argued that if he wanted to run the score up, they could have scored close to 120 points.
The class was asked to examine four ethical questions:
First Question: Did Brad run up the score?
Second Question: Does an athletic director have the moral obligation to hire qualified coaches?
Third Question: Do coaches, teachers, and administrators have the responsibility and obligation to continue to grow and develop their own skills and abilities?
Fourth Question: Do we as educators have a responsibility to expect success from our students and ourselves?
The class discussed these questions and they came to the conclusion that Brad’s team didn’t run up the score – they played every player, and played a very conservative running game. The students argued that if anything, it would have been morally wrong to take a knee on every play. The students went on to say that whether the coach should have called off the game or had his players take a knee isn’t the real issue. The real issue was that the opponents hired a coach who wasn’t qualified to coach football, and the players on the opposing team were the real victims here. The students in our class went on to say that the real issue was that as leaders and educators, we have a responsibility to provide a positive experience and learning environment for our students. And to provide these positive experiences and learning environments we as leaders need to:
- Hire quality coaches, teachers, and staff members
- Develop and train them
- Have high expectations for their success, and
- Support them
Remember, ultimately the job will go to the candidate who is prepared and who effectively executes the basics of the job interview process. In all you do, you will want to EXECUTE FOR SUCCESS!
Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University. He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach. He is also an author of 8 books. Check out his book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition at www.SportsCareersInstitute.com.