Big 10 may give chief the power to fire coaches

Posted: July 20, 2012

In the wake of the scandal at Penn State, the Big Ten is considering a plan to give its commissioner the power to punish schools with financial sanctions, suspensions, and even the ability to fire coaches.

An 18-page plan being circulated among Big Ten leadership raises the possibility of giving commissioner Jim Delany such authority, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on Thursday.

The plan, which the Chronicle posted online, suggests that in certain circumstances requiring "immediate and decisive action," the commissioner would have unilateral authority to "take any and all actions" in the best interest of the Big Ten.

The league declined comment when contacted by the Associated Press about the plan titled, "Standards and Procedures for Safeguarding Institutional Control of Intercollegiate Athletics."

"It is a working document intended to generate ideas, not draw conclusions," according to an e-mail sent from Big Ten headquarters to people in the league. "One provision in the document addresses 'emergency authority of the commissioner' - it is just one of many ideas."

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was recently convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys, with some of the assaults happening on campus. A report commissioned by Penn State said school leaders, including the late coach Joe Paterno, ignored allegations more than a decade ago to avoid bad publicity, allowing Sandusky to prey on other boys for years.

Paterno's family has said he never participated in an attempt to cover up wrongdoing.

The NCAA and U.S. Education Department are investigating Penn State for potential rules and policy violations; the issue of "institutional control" is believed to be a key part of the NCAA probe, since problems there can lead to athletic penalties. The Chronicle said the Big Ten is still discussing how to handle fallout from the scandal at one of its member schools; currently, its 12-member Council of Presidents and Chancellors must approve any decision to suspend or expel one of the league's schools.

Whether Delany would ever be granted the power to fire coaches or punish schools was unknown. The Big Ten e-mail said the council would have to approve such a sweeping change.

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. Still, Kaler said it's important for Big Ten leaders to sharpen their standards.

"The Penn State situation has highlighted again the vulnerabilities of institutions to bad behavior in their athletic departments," Kaler said in a phone interview with AP.

Richard Katz, a sports agent whose clients include coaches in the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference, said he didn't like the notion of a conference commissioner being able to fire a coach.

"It could present substantial legal and other problems with regard to the employment contracts that coaches have with the universities," said Katz, of Cincinnati-based KMG Sports Management.

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