Tag Archives: Athletes

College Sports in the Hot Seat

RUIf you’ve turned on the news or scrolled through your Twitter feed within the last week, you’ve heard about the Rutgers University Men’s Basketball coach who was fired because of his behavior during a video-taped practice. Coach Mike Rice was released from his duties as head basketball coach on April 3rd after being caught using abrasive language and physically abusing his players. Since then, Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti was also released from Rutgers. It has been said that Pernetti knew of Rice’s inappropriate behavior.

Also making the headlines this week was the Auburn University football program, who committed several NCAA recruiting violations, paid their players and had players’ grades changed. A full report was completed by reporter Selena Roberts who detailed all of the infractions on her website.

It seems a day doesn’t pass where some college isn’t in the hot seat for a sports scandal. You can’t forget the fake girlfriend mess of Manti Te’o from Notre Dame or the booster club nightmare at the University of Miami. Of course, the most infamous of them all was the Penn State child abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno. The real question is why so many college sports scandals?

The possible answers are endless. People are more connected to the media. Athletes are treated more elite and therefore feel entitled and untouchable. Competition among teams has increased and translates into real dollars for both the players and the university. None of these are acceptable answers for the behavior we’ve seen from college athletes and administrators just within the last year.

Since it seems almost inevitable that some issue will arise within a college’s athletic program, everyonesocial media world involved has to be prepared for the worst. I am certainly no expert, but after watching these tragedies unfold, here are my tips for preparing for a college sports crisis:

1. Be Proactive: Communicate with your athletes the social media policies that are in place for your team and for the university. Don’t have a social media policy? I suggest you create one for your team because most of them are active on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Even show them examples of what is appropriate versus what is not.

2. Discuss Hypotheticals: Take ten minutes of a team meeting each month to talk about the ‘what if’ situations that could happen to these athletes. Use case studies that have actually occurred. Make team members respond and evaluate what they say. This way, if a scandal does occur, the athletes will have a better idea of what to say and how to react.

3. Raise the Bar: While student athletes are an important part of a university, they are still students and human beings. Don’t make exceptions or excuses for them just because they need to play. It sets a bad example and makes the athletes think they can do what they want. By setting a higher standard for student athletes, they can become role models for the university.

Most schools have a crisis communication plan but coaches should talk to their teams about these issues as they happen in real-time. It might prevent further problems in the future. Why do you think there are so many scandals within college sports? Do you agree with my pieces of advice? Please share your thoughts.

From Hero To Zero?

Last week, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) released a 1,000 page report about Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal. Armstrong has been accused of using performance enhancing drugs during his cycling career. As a result, the USADA stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him for life. Armstong is one of cycling’s greatest athletes as well as the founder of Livestrong, his nonprofit that supports cancer patients. Armstrong is a cancer survivor too. With all the controversy surrounding him, one can only wonder what will happen to Lance Aemstrong and his reputation.

Armstrong has strongly denied using any illegal substances and has passed drug tests before. From a public relations viewpoint, the main thing Armstrong shouldn’t do is lie. Lying will only cause more damage to his credibility and will break the trust he has with fans. If the accusations are false, Armstrong should explain why. If they turn out to be true, he needs to apologize immediately. Right now, nothing is definite. The International Cycling Union will rule by October 31st to determine if the USADA’s findings are accurate. Until then, I would suggest Mr. Armstrong focuses on his charity, which has not suffered at all since the scandal broke.

My biggest issue with this situation is how it will affect the Livestrong organization. I wear a Livestrong band around my wrist everyday and have had people associate it with Armstrong. One of my friends even asked if I was still going to wear it after this news broke. I wear the band because my grandfather wore it until the day he died from cancer. It has nothing to do with Armstrong but because he created the band, it is immediately associated with him. My fear is that a great charity will suffer because of one person’s actions. So far, there is not any indication of that.

It’s almost every day that we read about a professional athlete involved in some type of scandal. Possibly hundreds of baseball players have been accused of using steroids while football players are shooting themselves outside of nightclubs. These athletes forget that they are role models for children and even adults. If society condones their actions, then will children think it acceptable to do the same? Please let me know what you think!

UPDATE: This morning, Lance Armstrong stepped down as chairman of the Livestrong Foundation. He explained that he does not want the charity to suffer because of  his current situation. Additionally, Nike ended its contact as Armstrong’s sponsor, citing “insurmountable evidence” that Armstrong participated in dopping. It appears that Armstrong’s PR problem has just gotten bigger. Losing sponsors does not help his plea of innocence nor does him stepping down. However, by stepping down, he’s showing that his charity is important and shouldn’t suffer because of his actions. Please share your thoughts with me!


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