- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is probably the least surprising reaction of all time, but I thought it was funny, so here goes.
On Thursday, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the circulation of an 18-page memorandum titled "Standards and Procedures for Safeguarding Institutional Control of Intercollegiate Athletics." This is a post-Penn State scandal document designed to consider, according to the Chronicle, policies that would give the league "the ability to penalize individual members of an institution, should their actions significantly harm the league’s reputation." Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and the league's 12-member Council of Presidents and Chancellors would have "to punish schools with financial sanctions, suspensions and even the ability to fire coaches." In other words, Delany would technically have the power to fire college basketball coaches.
As you might expect, the league's basketball coaches very much dislike this idea. CBS' Gary Parrish, on hand at the Peach Jam AAU tournament, granted anonymity to five Big Ten head and assistant coaches, and those coaches were effusive in their distaste:
"Penn State had an awful scandal because it had one man [Joe Paterno] who had too much power. Is that right?" one coach asked. "So the way to fix that is to give another man [Delany] too much power? Does that make any sense? It takes some kind of arrogance to even suggest that.
"The head coaches should fire the assistant coaches, the athletic directors should fire the head coaches, the presidents should fire the athletic directors, and the boards should fire the presidents. It's like Bill Belichick's saying -- 'Do your job.' That's the way it should be. We don't need a commissioner trying to do somebody else's job -- especially when a commissioner firing one school's great coach could help make things easier for that school's rival. The whole thing is stupid. ..."
That is probably the least surprising reaction to any bit of Big Ten-related news you'll hear all year. Of course coaches hate this idea. They're also overreacting. As ESPN.com Big Ten football writer Brian Bennett wrote Thursday:
Meanwhile, you can already imagine the controversy that might arise if the Big Ten commissioner and presidents decided to fire a coach. But as the Chronicle reports, such a move would involve coaches who "interfere with normal admissions, compliance, hiring, or disciplinary processes." It would likely have to be an extreme case of malfeasance for the league to take such an extraordinary action before the school itself took action.
The chances this rule would be used to fire a coach without some major, already-obvious-to-everyone reason is very difficult to fathom. The proposal is, again, a post-Penn State scandal idea, a pre-emptive insurance policy against institutions that go so far out of their way to, say, protect monsters, that the entire spectrum of conference rules and regulations isn't fit to do the job. Doomsday scenarios -- in which Delany becomes an all-powerful Big Ten potentate, prone to firing coaches like fantasy football players while palace servants fan him with palm fronds -- are absolutely as ridiculous as I just made them sound.
As the Associated Press reported Thursday:
Minnesota president Eric Kaler said he doubts that individual schools would be willing to give up control to the conference on such an issue of firing a coach. [...]
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said the scandal has school presidents and ADs looking at ways to improve oversight and control.
"A lot of things have been discussed, but I have not been party to any conversation that would suggest the commissioner would have unilateral power to fire coaches," Brandon told the AP. "That's kind of out of left field, and I don't think the commissioner would want that kind of power. But what sounds reasonable to me is to create a mechanism in which the commissioner along with a committee of presidents and athletic directors had more oversight and control."