The clearest messages that an organization sends come through hirings, firings, promotions, bonuses, and all items HR. What organizations tout and say actually matter very little when it comes to ethical culture. What they do is who they are.
Enter the University of Louisville. In 2017, the school had a heck of a scandal when the NCAA uncovered nefarious activities in the student-athlete dorm. Call girls were present for purposes of, well, you know, but the NCAA focus was on the participation of basketball recruits in the dorm activities. Basketball Coach Pitino used the Sgt. Schultz (Hogan’s Heroes)defense, “I know nothing.” Louisville kept Pitino and the NCAA stripped the school of its 2013 Division 1 championship in 2017.
Fast forward to later in 2017 and the FBI basketball bribery scandal emerged. Criminal convictions resulted from the payment of cash by Adidas to the parents of recruits. Coach Piino did not survive that one and was fired in October 2017.
Enter football coach Bobby Petrino. His journey to Louisville came through his stint as head coach at the University of Arkansas. Here was a man who had a motorcycle accident with a young football staffer along for the ride. The two scrambled, and she quickly left the scene because the two were having an affair. As details emerged and the coach recovered from the accident, some lies were tossed hither and yon, and Coach Petrino was fired in 2012. However, Louisville picked him up as head coach that year. There were various events during his tenure, such as two football players and a cheerleader being shot as they celebrated the school’s Heisman trophy winner (Lamar Jackson). Nonetheless, these kinds of things bounced off Coach Petrino.
But, this week, Louisville put its foot down. The Coach was 2-8, and enough was enough. Vince Yyra, the athletic director, fired Coach Petrino with these words, “We owe it to our student-athletes and fans to turn this thing around.I did not have the confidence that it was going to happen next season without a change, and it needs to start happening now.” We will have none of this losing stuff.
Prostitution, bribery, scandal at previous jobs — those kinds of things bring mixed or delayed signals when it comes to athletic department personnel. However, one losing season and they are out (although exiting with $14 million takes away some of the ignominy). Everyone at Louisville understands how the game is played there — not football, obviously from the record, but the ethics thing. The rules of that game are clear and the result is one sad culture.