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Have Your Say: What is a Coach’s Responsibility Off the Field?

When it comes to college football, coaches are more powerful than ever.

The right hire can make or break a program in terms of recruiting, fundraising, fan interest and obviously wins and losses. Coaches are tasked with more than just the X’s and O’s. They are their programs’ greatest advocate and salesperson. And they get paid a lot of money to do so.

Urban Meyer’s suspension for failing to report allegations of domestic violence against one of his assistant coaches brings up some questions about what exactly the role is of a head coach for off-the-field matters. Obviously, a coach hands out discipline if a player breaks curfew, misses class, shows up late to practice or any similar matters. And if a coach knows someone in his program is breaking the law or is a threat to others, he has a human duty to report it, if not legal.

In Meyer’s case, his duty to report violations of laws by his assistants is explicitly spelled out in his contract. The consequences for not reporting it could have lead to termination with cause.

Colleges talk a lot about the atmosphere that a coach creates. Even if a coach is not actively trying to cover up criminal conduct, he may be creating an atmosphere that allows such conduct to go on. This leads to a discussion about the kind of culture a coach creates, which can have dire consequences if left unchecked, as in the situation at The University of Maryland with D.J. Durkin.

Perhaps the most sinister example of this was the Penn State scandal. Head coach Joe Paterno, along with numerous other administrators, was fired for not doing enough to report child abuse done by one of his former assistants. A coach’s responsibility obviously extends well beyond the playing field.

But is the standard for coaches too high? Even though coaches have assumed these other responsibilities, they still are ultimately paid to win football games. Should they be expected to make judgments on off the field matters as well?

What’s your take?

Take 1: Coaches are supposed to coach

Anybody has a moral obligation to report criminal behavior. A coach who hears about it should report it. But a coach can’t know everything that goes on throughout all the branches of their program. He or she shouldn’t be held responsible for every instance of bad behavior.

Take 2: Everything that happens in a program falls on the coach

The head coach is the head coach for a reason. They are responsible for all the players, coaches, employees and anyone else associated with the program. That means that the coach needs to know about anything that goes on. If they don’t know about it, then they failed at that part of their job.

So should coaches get a break when it comes to matters like this? Or do they sign up to take on all the responsibility when they take the job? Have your say in the comments below.

From GameChanger and Todd Kortemeier

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