Nepotism happens, especially in college coaching

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At Texas Tech University, curmudgeonly coach Bobby Knight doesn't seem ready to go anywhere soon. Yet, his assistant coach and son Pat has a contractual deal to become the next coach of the Red Raiders.

And, when Oklahoma State University's Eddie Sutton was involved in an alcohol-related traffic accident earlier this year, the 70-year-old coach decided to retire and turn the team over to his son, Sean.

Do you see a pattern here?

Does it make sense to you?

Do you really believe that universities ought to be setting aside all fair hiring practices when it comes to replacing sports coaches?

Yes. No. No. The answers to these questions are obvious.

Yet, for some reason, some universities have no trouble resorting to nepotism when it comes to replacing well-known and well-compensated coaches. And, nobody seems to blink an eye at this.

Look, nepotism happens. Ninety percent of American businesses are family owned or controlled. The leadership reins on those are often passed down from one member of the family to another.

Private companies usually don't raise as many hackles when they turn to nepotism. But suffice it to say, those companies probably have their own internal dysfunctions that employees, not shareholders, have to be concerned about. Most companies are not One Big Happy Family, no matter how you look at them.

Public companies operate on a whole different level. Stock analysts and corporate watchdogs snarl any time chief executives surround themselves with relatives as officers or members of the board of directors.

That's not to say that a son or daughter of a chief executive can't be as good - or better - a CEO as mom or dad was. They can, and sometimes are.

But they shouldn't have the leverage to become CEO of a public company just because of what their parent achieved.

With few exceptions, public companies have gotten this message.

Nepotism undermines the American dream. It consolidates political, social and economic clout in a very concrete and effective manner. It says who you are is more important than what you do.

Since its founding, America has strived to perfect the notion that you have a chance to pursue anything in this life that you want to achieve. It makes no promises that you will, but it does hold out that possibility for everyone.

Nepotism means more of the same. It means that some privileged people and their families will always have an advantage of filling jobs before others. It means that people get locked out of fair employment opportunity.

Every college as well as every employer should have strict conflict-of-interest rules drawn up. Most do. And, many address nepotism as the unfair and inequitable practice it is.

But colleges look the other way. Some of the winningest coaches in the game have their children working for them in some capacity: USC football coach Pete Carroll, Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno, Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden and University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier.

I wouldn't begin to say that the kids of those coaches are not qualified for the jobs they hold. Yet, would they all hold those jobs if dad wasn't coach?

Less than 3 percent of the head college football coaches in the country are black, according to the Black Coaches Association. Do you think that fairly represents the interest that blacks have in attaining those jobs? Does it mean that fair and nondiscriminatory hiring practices have determined that blacks are qualified to hold less than 3 percent of those jobs?

No. And, no again.

Nepotism is one way of holding back minorities of all kinds. It's not a fair way of doing things and it's not a good idea.

College coaching certainly isn't the only place where nepotism continues to exist. It is, however, one place where it shouldn't exist.

© Copley News Service

University of South Carolina


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