“…And That Is Why You Fail.”

Tracy Claeys was fired from his job as the head football coach for the University of Minnesota. Honestly, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone (including Claeys himself who noted that he told his family that he likely would be fired Tuesday morning), but in interviews he’s been doing, he keeps hitting on a few points that clearly illustrate how he doesn’t understand the situation he was in, and didn’t understand the backlash for the tweet that he keeps insisting was the sole cause for his firing.

First, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last four months, you won’t know that the Gopher football team had first 4, and then more recently 10 members suspended as a result of a rape/sexual assault of a female student at a party following the first game of the season. The details are horrifying, and that’s why they’re important, even if they apparently didn’t rise to the level of being cause for criminal charges. A young woman was sexually assaulted by the 10 football players, plus a recruit–a high school student, mind you–taking turns to have sex with the woman. Regardless of whether there was consent or not, or alcohol involved, or any other stupid unintelligible excuse for the actions of these students, this was an irresponsible, morally repugnant act. While it may not have been criminal, it certainly was the wrong thing to do, under any interpretation.

It was so distateful that the remaining teammates of the 10 suspended players, who had boycotted practice for a lower-tier bowl game, gave up that boycott when they were presented with the university’s investigative findings.

Claeys was initially silent about the boycott, until he tweeted that he was proud of his boys for working to make the world a better place. Oh good God, do I need to list the number of ways this was completely wrong? Based on his ignorant responses to the media, I do, so here goes:

Dear Coach Claeys:

  1. You do understand that obviously uninformed players were supporting 10 teammates who, while not criminally culpable, had violated the university’s own code of ethics which all students are supposed to abide by, right?
  2. The boycotting players claimed there was no due process in the suspension of their teammates. Um…Did they check the code of ethics? Did you remind them that they have to live to those rules? From what I’ve seen, the process seems pretty clear. The University conducts an investigation (independently of any criminal investigation), and if cause is found for suspension or expulsion, that’s it. The investigation was concluded. Findings were found. The suspended players screwed up and needed to face their punishment. And to be fair, there obviously wasn’t any due process for the victim at that party.
  3. 10 players is roughly 10% of your team. That means that to at least that much of your team, this kind of behavior somehow is considered OK. It isn’t. Ever. And no one apparently stepped in and said “we shouldn’t do this. This is wrong.” If 10% of your team thought robbing a bank or murdering someone was okay, you’d put the kibosh on that right away, right? There’s a culture on your team that was clearly messed up and needed correction yesterday.
  4. Wins and losses are not the measure of you as a coach. A coach is a leader. Moreover, a college coach is a leader and mentor. These kids are not just there to play a game. They’re there to learn–not only academically, but also to learn life skills and lessons and to be good, responsible people. You as their coach clearly failed at your job for least this 10% of the team. If there’s any chance that the school and team can do better, then absolutely, we need to try to do better, whatever that costs.
  5. What did you say to the team when the 4 players were suspended in the first place? If the first words out of your mouth were “whether or not this is true or not, actions like these will not be tolerated on this team by anyone. Period,” then I’ll cut you a small amount of slack, but I get the sense that you didn’t say that, and probably didn’t talk to your players about the suspensions and allegations at all before the shit hit the fan in December.
  6. How in the living hell was this a moment to be proud of 90 misguided athletes? The only viable argument was that they were displaying team unity, and that’s fine, but ultimately they were screwed over by the actions of the 10 assholes who didn’t take a minute to think things through. Those 10 were obviously not displaying team unity. So don’t even go there. Oh, and the “making the world a better place” bit? That’s such nonsense that you need to just stop now. Really. You’ll hurt yourself if you keep it up.
  7. And finally, at least for now, since I really am getting tired of having to point out the obvious: your complaint that “things were not handled” well in terms of your firing is BS. You’re an employee. With a contract. And that contract likely says that your employer can fire you for any reason they want, including the annoying sound of your sneeze. Now, the fact that you failed your student-athletes as their mentor notwithstanding, you also failed the other students at the university, you failed the faculty and staff, the athletic department, and you failed the people of the state who help pay for your overblown salary. Suck it up and realize that you violated a trust placed in you by a whole lot of people. That in itself is worthy of hanging your butt out to dry. You aren’t a victim at all. Hell, you’re even getting paid for the remainder of your contract. As a taxpayer, I should sue to get my share of that back, but you’ll obviously complain about that, too.

Congrats on coaching the team to a winning season on the field. It’s a shame that the rest of your job was handled so incompetently.