Tag Archives: integrity

Football Coaches and Character

I don’t know if Eric Mangini — now the former on-the-field head sled of the Cleveland Browns — is a good football coach. If you go by wins and losses, then the answer in Cleveland points to no. Yet Mangini strikes me as a decent guy, someone who grew and matured in the job, treated his players with respect, and didn’t do anything at least this season to embarrass himself or the organization.

Even as he was being pushed out the door yesterday, Mangini was described by Mike Holgrem as “a hard-working, bright, caring guy.”

Wonder if Mangini could surface as a college coach?

Pro football — just like all other pro sports — is essentially a big business. I know there are complex emotional and community ties to pro teams –hey, even I watch the Steelers play this time of year clutching the original Terrible Towel in my cold, nearly dead hand as they begin their annual drive to the Super Bowl. But at some level, isn’t rooting for one pro team against another akin to hoping that Ford gains market share on General Motors?

So in the pros, head coaches are essentially CEOs, with wins and losses as their balance sheet. But in college football, coaches are many times the highly visible face of the university and its students — and that brings with it some obligations of trust, responsibility, integrity and character.

And yeah, the big dogs in college football — Alabama, Texas, Ohio State, Michigan, Florida and so on — want to win, and the dollars involved are huge. But I’ll bet most university presidents and athletic directors go to bed at night and have a wet dream that their team is advancing in the rankings, filling stadiums, gaining alumni and student support — but with someone like Joe Paterno pacing up and down the sidelines.

In college football, character matters.

Here’s an example: Pitt.

And I’ll take the easy route here and let Pete Thamel do the heavy lifting and writing, from his NYT article “Pitt Fires Its New Coach.”

The University of Pittsburgh fired Coach Mike Haywood on Saturday in the wake of his arrest on a charge of domestic battery in Indiana against the mother of his child. Pittsburgh hired Haywood, who was the coach at Miami (Ohio), on Dec. 16 to replace Dave Wannstedt.

Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said in a statement that the decision “reflects a strong belief that moving forward with Mr. Haywood as our head coach is not possible under the existing circumstances.” The university said that Haywood had been informed of the decision Saturday afternoon.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Haywood was released from St. Joseph County Jail on Saturday afternoon after posting bond. He told the newspaper in a telephone interview: “It isn’t fair. The truth will eventually come out.”

The firing and its aftermath are likely to place significant pressure on Athletic Director Steve Pederson, who hired Haywood and praised him at the time by saying, “Most importantly, Michael is a man of character and integrity.”

A man of character and integrity. That might be. And firing Heywood at this point may prove to be terribly unfair. But Pitt, like other colleges and universities, can’t take the risk these days of waiting to find out.

Hey, maybe the Pitt AD should call Eric Mangini.



Laing Kennedy, Sports and Integrity

I know that for most pajama-clad citizen journalists like me it’s fashionable to be critical. You know. Scan the newspapers (dead-tree or online), blogs, online news sites and so on and then opine — generally with a negative slant. Not today. Today I am writing about Laing Kennedy who is retiring in June as Kent State’s director of athletics. And Kennedy is leaving at the top of his game, a model for someone who can succeed with a college sports program without compromising his integrity.

Tom Gaffney has an excellent article about Kennedy and his accomplishments in this morning’s Akron Beacon Journal.  Quite simply, Kennedy led a program with significant achievement when it came to athletics — and even more so with the emphasis that he placed on educational attainment.

During my years at Kent State, I only met Kennedy once. I was organizing an annual event that attracts people from the university and the community, the Bowman Breakfast. And Kennedy was the speaker. So I had some limited contact with him before, during and after the event. I was very impressed with his enthusiasm — and his dedication to the university and the Kent community.

But before that breakfast, what impressed me about Kennedy was his ability and willingness to help students  — and not just those on a sports scholarship. When I was working with students at the university’s student-run PR firm Flash Communications, many times students needed to contact Kennedy for information about a story or for a comment. He was always available. Always took their calls or returned them as quickly as possible. And he was gracious with his time and understanding of how much the student wanted to do a good job but needed some assistance.

Gee, sounds like a good teacher — and mentor. Somewhat surprisingly, many professors and college administrators (not just at Kent State but most everywhere) aren’t like that. Imagine that.

We need more people like Laing Kennedy who understand that education is basically about helping students succeed. And if you can add some winning sports teams to the mix while maintaining your  integrity — then so much the better.

A nation of cheaters?

Wow. What a great morning to run. Full moon. Temperature in the low 50s. No garbage trucks on the prowl. Just a great fall morning. And even the fact that the Browns somehow managed to beat the Giants last night couldn’t diminish my spirit.

So why was I thinking about us being a nation of cheaters? Well, as I wrote about yesterday, I believe many (most?) of the problems we face as a nation are linked directly to the decline in ethical conduct — and civility. We look at the greedy douche bags that run (or used to run until the firms went belly up) organizations like AIG and Lehman Brothers, and about all you can do is shake your head. They have no shame.

But the reality is that they didn’t just develop this fatal character flaw as they were promoted to the rank of Captain of Industry. And they aren’t alone. It seems that unethical conduct — cheating in the form of plagiarism, copying homework, taking answers from someone else’s exam — is widespread in high school and college. Here’s from an opinion article in The New York Times yesterday, “Digging Out Roots of Cheating in High School“:

Surveys show that cheating in school — plagiarism, forbidden collaboration on assignments, copying homework and cheating on exams — has soared since researchers first measured the phenomenon on a broad scale at 99 colleges in the mid-1960s.

The percentage of students who copied from another student during tests grew from 26 percent in 1963 to 52 percent in 1993, and the use of crib notes during exams went from 6 percent to 27 percent, according to a study conducted by Dr. Donald McCabe of Rutgers. By the mid-1990s, only a small minority said they had never cheated, meaning that cheating had become part of the acceptable status quo.

Dr. McCabe’s later national survey of 25,000 high school students from 2001 to 2008 yielded equally depressing results: more than 90 percent said they had cheated in one way or another.

Dr. Jason Stephens of the University of Connecticut has now embarked on a three-year pilot program to reduce cheating. His premise is that honesty and integrity are not only values but habits — habits that can be encouraged in school settings, with positive benefits later in life.

And the article concludes:

But there’s hope. The 1993 study suggested that cheating dropped in schools that encouraged a culture of integrity — either by formally instituting an honor code or by stressing at every turn the importance of honesty and integrity.

Gee, a culture of integrity. Wouldn’t that be something.

And again, I take from the remarks of John Ong to graduates of the Ohio State University, “On Civility“:

I urge each of you to reflect on what I have said and to try to practice in your lives an increased level of civility. Remember as well that civility, like most important things, must be learned early in life and must be reflected first in little things before it can go on to be reflected in the great social issues of the day.

We certainly are facing a host of social issues and problems these days. Maybe civility — and ethics — do matter after all.