As Coaches Go, So Go Professors?

North Carolina State University just fired its football coach. Tom O’Brien had a winning record over six seasons (but not in the school’s conference, the ACC). He had taken the team to four bowl games, and his team had beaten its chief rival, UNC–Chapel Hill, five times. But the athletic director, Debbie Yow, wants more “aggressive” recruiting. As one fan said, O’Brien was “pretty good,” just not good enough.

Pretty good, and fired. I’m not sure I want more aggressive recruiting at State (look what happened to UNC–Chapel Hill), but one cannot help but compare the tough standards for coaches with the absence of standards for professors. It took years for the University of Colorado at Boulder to fire Ward Churchill, a plagiarist who had used his ethnic identity to move up the academic ladder. He only came to administrators’ attention because he called victims of 9/11 “little Eichmanns.” And in the end, the supreme court of Colorado decided that he had been unfairly fired (although he received only $1 in damages).

Perhaps someone can explain to me the difference between the treatment of coaches and professors. Oh, I suppose that’s easy — but is it right?






Jane S. Shaw — Jane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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