End of the regular season and the coaching blood bath begins. 32 down, probably 40 total. And that only includes the men's basketball coaches. Already the bodies are being filled with new bodies. Ever wonder what happens to fired coaches and what it does to Intercollegiate athletics?
One day your name headlines the neon signs on the football stadium. One day the media follows your every move and recruit. One day you are part of the face of the college and embody the values that university wants to project through sports.
One day in a closed meeting where remarkably little information is exchanged you are offered the chance to resign or just fired. The person who fires you assumes you know why and a bland announcements says "we decided to go in a different direction and thank coach X for his or her dedicated service to the university. We wish them well in their future endeavors."
The next day the ex-coach's name has disappeared from the web site and all the advertising of the university. All the speaking engagements where the coach would extoll the university are cancelled. All the recruits are hastily called by the sport administrator or AD or even the President depending on how important they are.
During the night, movers surreptitiously come in and box books, trophies and pictures of you and boosters and players. Could be 3 years of stuff or 20 years of stuff, the same drill. No party, no farewell, barely a chance to say goodbye to friends. You are GONE. Actually you are not just gone, it goes deeper.
The ex-coach now becomes a nonperson, not a persona non grata, but literally a non-person like in Orwell's 1984. If you look, the terminated coach no longer exists in the athletic department web or marketing. The office name plates disappear. You can see the shadowed space where the plates used to be while everyone waits for a new coach. Maybe a lonely bus sign with the ex-coach's name or face still wanders the city streets. The empty spot on the portrait wall has been filled by moving all other coaches' pictures around.
Welcome to the end of an intercollegiate coach's job.
This is how the modern university treats their coaches. The do not fire them so much as erase them. Years, service, loyalty, exemplary conduct, none of it matters when the AD and boosters, and in big revenue sports, the President, huddle and decide.
This scenario should imprint on us why coaches sometimes have trouble taking all the ideals and defense of intercollegiate athletes seriously. They know better. They may be men and women deeply committed to helping the student grow as humans and excel as athletes. BUT if a coach does not win, graduation rates, the quality of humanity of their athletes, their public service matter nothing. If a coach ticks off boosters, character does not matter. As a matter of fact, as long as coaches are winning, most of the time character does not matter either.
I have seen this too many times now. Men and women I respect leaving in the night and not even able or willing to come back to the campus they served. With luck, their true friends will hold a party for them.
Most coaches have experienced this once, and they know that the boosters are not their friends; lord help a coach who believes a booster is a friend, just wait until they start to lose. Coaches live in a looking glass world where everyone lionizes you and the university markets you, but discards you like a failed toothpaste brand.
The end of one coach marks the beginning of another. Another cycle launches. If we wonder why coaches' leave for other jobs, if we wonder about that attenuated loyalty of coaches or players, if we wonder why good coaches may be tempted to cheat, go no farther than the end of the job. The colleges created this, not the coaches.
"Once I was somebody."