Coaches and Their Soft Hearts

Joe Paterno, former head football coach at Penn State. Michigan State University former gymnastics coach, Kathie Klages. Ohio State head football coach, Urban Meyer. The late Coach Paterno was told about the behaviors of now convicted child molester, Jerry Sandusky, and aware of reports made by others about that same behavior. Kathy Klages retired last year after 27 years at Michigan State when she was accused of trying to cover up allegations of sexual abuse of young female gymnasts by then team physician, Lawrence G. Nassar. Nassar is in prison for 40-175 years and Ms. Klages was just charged with lying to authorities about her knowledge of Nassar’s crimes. Urban Meyer, according to a $500,000 investigative report Ohio State’s Board of Trustees commissioned, had a blind spot when it came to the debts, the spousal abuse allegations, the affair with a football department secretary, and a rehab stint of his assistant coach, Zach Smith. And the strip bar trips only got a warning. Nothing seemed to faze the coach; taking action found him frozen. Mr. Meyer ran a program in which no one felt comfortable enough to report Smith’s participation in lewd sexual activities at Ohio State facilities. And the investigators are not sure whether Coach Meyer deliberately deleted texts from his phone.

Think about this — these are coaches in the rugged world of college sports. Performance is everything, and their jobs are on the line with every game, meet, and championship. These are the people who are demanding disciplinarians. However, when it came to taking action to stop behavior that was hurting deeply so many people inside and outside their programs, they choked.

There remains one additional puzzle in all of this: Why hasn’t every coach around the country taken a hard look at their own programs, personnel, and conduct, and stood up and taken the heat, the consequences, and the burden of saving those who are powerless and abused? Well, that would be because a three-game suspension doesn’t sting as much. And when your record is stripped but then restored and there is still a day at the stadium that honors you, why bother? Full retirement is not a bad result for shielding an abuser. Humans respond to the pain that is in front of them. Given our laxity in dishing up consequences, why would they not remain sullen and mute? We share the blame for our tolerance of the outrageous and failure to demand consequences.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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