The Only Wrong Answer When It Comes to Coaches and Athletic Departments Is Doing Nothing

The Barometer keeps a C-drive folder titled, “When Will They Learn?”  In the folder are all the stories about organizations that become aware of misconduct by individuals and opt to do nothing and, in too many cases, even attempt to conceal the misconduct.  Inside the folder?  All the folks caught doing insider trading.  How hard is it to understand that if you trade on material, non-public information, they are going to catch you?  The majority of the folder includes the information on the child molestation scandals by Catholic priests, BBC television stars, Elmo puppeteers, college coaches, and Scoutmasters.  In all of these situations, there are long periods of time in which the leaders, who are aware of “this is obviously wrong” conduct are doing nothing to halt the problem.  However, they do manage during this “doing nothing” period to build quite a record of what happened and document for public view and, sometimes prosecutors, that they KNEW what had happened ( or, in some cases, was still happening).

Rutgers joined the “When will they learn?” folder this week.  How could the athletic director and administrators have witnessed what happened to Penn State and not wonder aloud, “Wonder if we should take some action here?”  The only wrong answer once you know of misconduct is to do nothing.  Doing nothing makes you part of the problem.  Do something straight away and you lose a coach.  Hang on doing nothing for months or years and whomever you are protecting takes you down with him. At Penn State the “doing nothing” went on for so long that others at the university, in the town, among the merchants and alums who knew nothing still pay the price.  Rutgers has lost a coach and an athletic director, and they are probably not done with the collateral damage.

Once you know, do something.  Disclose, refer for prosecution, fire, suspend, investigate, or all of the foregoing.  However, don’t sit in meetings fretting about reputations, legal issues, and media coverage.  At Rutgers, the administration spent months building a legal case for firing the coach.  The Barometer hopes that the reason for doing nothing was not concern over spoiling the then-ongoing Big Ten negotiations. So, they kept it quiet and got into the Big Ten.

Yikes!  Look at the tape of Coach Rice!  Not much room for a legal misstep among the slurs there, except in doing nothing.  Welcome this exemplar to the Big Ten. Good luck building trust with the folks at the conference now. Once you know, you can’t take it back.  Action builds trust.  Ironically, doing nothing is a destructive force.

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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