Big Ten Plan to Take Power to Fire Coaches Raises Big Issues

The Associated Press reported today on a plan wherein the Big Ten would give its commissioner the power to fire coaches of member schools’ sports teams.

In the nascent era of the college sports Super-Conference, and in light of the Penn State Nittany Lions litany, it seems like a logical step to empower conference commissioners with the right, and obligation, to fire athletic coaches when compelling reasons exist. But clearly, it is a power ripe for use in the wrong situations.

Massive cover-up of felonious conduct continuing for years – use it then, but how often has that happened in the history of NCAA sports? Once. How about for widespread, insidious disregard for NCAA regulations, resulting in participation of illegal players and unearned wins, such as occurred at SMU and at usc? Well, the extreme penalties imposed at SMU were certainly a just reward, but conversely, the penalties usc were meted out were barely sufficient for the multitude of crimes that permeated the athletic department of one Mike Garrett and the football and basketball programs of messieurs Carroll and Floyd.

Just what sort of actions or non-actions would be sufficient for a conference exercise of such extreme power? Would new regulations be compiled that list every conceivable instance of conduct that would trigger the deadly bullet? If this were done a year ago, would anyone have thought to cover the Penn State situation?

And what about the legalities? With state universities, such as most that inhabit the Big Ten, a host of problems arise. How can an outside entity terminate a state university employee? And, amazingly, some coaches are even tenured employees, which raises all sorts of other issues, not to mention the fact that each state school’s termination procedures would be governed by that state’s law. And what about the sanctity of the contract (you can stop laughing now)? Of course, the fired coach could always be assigned to other university duties, but would the University of Michigan Board of Trustees be too happy with a p.e. coach earning $3.5 million dollars per year?

It’s an idea whose time has not yet come, and likely never will.

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