Helping sports organization solve integrity, growth, and development challenges

Risk Management

The Misuse of Annual Employee Performance Evaluation and Failure to Utilize Progressive Disciplinary Action

I have been involved as an expert witness in numerous employment cases.  In almost every case, a single negative annual employee performance evaluation, often involving invented facts, a minor NCAA rules violation portrayed as serious transgression and/or negative student evaluations are used to justify the termination of a strong employee who raised gender inequity issues.

Q: Should athletes be required to discuss issues with their coach before filing a complaint with the athletic department?

A:  Generally, yes – with several exceptions.  The athletic administrator must directly address the athletic program culture with both coaches and athletes at the beginning of each academic year in order to better offset the tremendous imbalance of power between coaches and student-athletes.  There should be a clearly stated policy and expectation that athletes have the right to ask their coaches any question and the coach, as a teacher first and foremost, has an obligation to adequately respond to such questions.  Included in this policy statement should be the requirem

Title IX Prohibits Discrimination Based on Pregnancy Too!

Title IX discussions usually focus on gender equality in the participation and treatment of athletics teams.  Few administrators realize that this federal law also mandates strong protections for student-athletes who are pregnant.  Every director of athletics should read the NCAA’s 2008 publication, Pregnant and Parenting Student-Athletes:  Resources and Model Policies, authored by Nancy Hogshead-Makar and Elizabeth Sorensen and available for free online.  

Model Policy: Supplements, Prescriptions and Over-the-Counter Drugs

Athletic departments often impose strict policies regarding the use of recreational or performance enhancing drugs by student-athletes and often have extensive drug testing programs designed to detect and prevent such use.  However, many departments do not have policies in place that address the issuance of vitamins, supplements and over-the-counter drugs by coaches, trainers or other department employees.  These policies are particularly important given the fact that vitamins and other supplements are a relatively unregulated industry in the United States.  Occasionally, som

Terminating a Popular Coach

Most managers agree that one of the most difficult tasks they face is firing an employee. When that employee is a coach, especially a popular coach or one who is highly visible in the community, the process is even more stress¬ful. Yet few textbooks help the athletic director deal with this common challenge. The problem to be solved is how to terminate a popular coach while handling all of the stakeholders interested or upset about this personnel decision.

Q: What policies and practices would reduce the possibility of academic fraud?

In response to the recent athletics academic fraud scandal at the University of North Carolina, The Drake Group issued the following position paper.  The Drake Group is a national organization of faculty and others whose mission is to defend academic integrity in higher education from the corrosive aspects of commercialized college sports.  Drake Group goals include: (1) ensure that universities provide accountability of trustees, administrators, and faculty by publicly disclosing information about the quality of educations college athletes receive; (2) advance proposals that ensu

Fair Investigation and Decision-Making: External Misconduct

When implementing a sanction, the sport manager has every incentive to get the decision right the first time; the stakes are high with regard to the manager’s and the organization’s reputation for fair judgment.  The consequences for misjudging or failing to have explicit policies can be severe.  For example NFL player Ray Rice assaulted his fiancé which was captured by an elevator videotape.  The NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, originally suspended the player for two games and then subsequently suspended the player indefinitely for violating the NFL’s personal conduct polic

External Misconduct: Specific Policy Recommendations

Our administrative responsibilities are multiple:  (1) to identify reputation and business risk, (2) to develop policies and procedures that reduce or eliminate such risk, (3) to educate all employees on how to avoid such risks and the penalties that may be incurred if policies and procedures are violated, (4) to fairly evaluate when employees have violated policies and procedures (using the preponderance of evidence standard), and (5) to impose appropriate penalties for such violations.  It is important for such policies to be specific with regard to the delineation of both prohi