University of Maryland athletic director, Damon Evans, and university president, Wallace D. Loh, in a statement released following their meeting with the parents of Jordan McNair. In that meeting, Mr. Evans and Dr. Loh explained the findings of the university’s investigation: Medical staff failed to immediately treat Jordan for heatstroke when he fell ill after performing 10-110-meter sprints.
The investigation will continue as the head football coach has been put on leave and the university “has parted ways” with strength coach, Rick Court. Others on the football training staff were also put on leave. The investigation will focus on what has been called a “toxic culture” in the football program, also called “abusive and humiliating.”
The conduct in NCAA programs during the off-season has been a concern for some time.
The acceptance of legal and moral responsibility is important. But, why does it always take such tragic events before culture issues are addressed? Culture controls behavior. Culture drives behavior. Culture rewards behavior. And culture is a tough thing to investigate. Worse, few leaders are willing to believe the findings of a culture audit unless and until there is a tragedy. Every leader should be commissioning culture audits so that they can know “the way things are really being done around here.”
Time and time again, in the midst of a culture audit or during the reporting out of findings, the Barometer finds CEOs and boards unwilling to accept that there are elements of their organization’s culture that need to be fixed. The usual responses:
“Yes, but look at how well we are doing.”
“Yes, but we are known for our community, environmental, diversity commitments.”
“Yes, but you did not interview enough people.”
“Yes, but I have known _________ for so many years, I find this hard to believe.”
Yes, but it always plays out the same way — talk to Volkswagen, Wells Fargo, Penn State, Michigan State, BP, and on and on. Front-page headlines and a CEO who offers, “Who knew?” A culture audit goes right to the front lines of the organization, where the real information is found. At Wells, it was the tellers, feeling pressure to get or just create new accounts and new account services. At Penn State, it was the pressure of maintaining and protecting a winning football program that kept janitors who witnessed Sandusky’s shower behavior with young boys quiet. At BP, the workers on the rigs, the pipelines, and the refineries who knew the real story on safety. The only question is whether CEOs are willing to seek out that information before their cultures produce the inevitable tragedies.