As a wife to a football coach, also known as a “football widow” from August through December, I have ongoing conversations with my husband about public relations in the sport. Whether it’s a high-profile player with a criminal record, a coach with no personality, a booster with lots of money and little morals, there’s always some aspect of PR in the mix. And, boy, does College Football need some good PR right now!
Watch out … NCAA seems to be on the prowl. Ohio State players are being punished for accepting cash for their football memorabilia while Miami’s program may receive the death penalty after accepting prostitute parties and more since 2002 from booster, Nevin Shapiro. Now, my alma mater, LSU, has their own debacle. Jordan Jefferson and Josh Johns are suspended indefinitely after getting into a fight at Shady’s Bar in BR and being charged with 2nd degree battery.
Just like Public Relations has a code of ethics to follow, the NCAA provides guidelines to college teams and players. When you don’t follow the guidelines, there’s a price to pay no matter what industry you’re in (with the exception of politics, sometimes). Unfortunately, with the NCAA, the price payers are 18-22 years-old. It’s a tougher pill to swallow when you ask a 21 year-old college student to come home at curfew, to not drink excessively or to stay out of trouble, but when they sign onto the team, that’s it. They can forget a common college life! (Luckily, I wasn’t blessed with strength, endurance, speed and a desire to wake up at 6 am to run stadium steps, so my college life was full of “common.”)
This is the biggest part of the debate with my husband … is it fair for a kid to be held at such high standards? Maybe not. I understand that more pressures are thrown at them that they have to turn down and, for some, their Mama may not have taught them any better. But, at the end of the night, specifically at Shady’s Bar, a guy was sent to the hospital with 3 broken vertebrae. As hard as it may have been in the heat of the moment, “Break up the fight, Jefferson!”
At L’Acadian, when a client is scrutinized or in a situation where they feel the need to “fight” back, we have to remind them to take the higher road. It’s even more important when a business grows and receives more attention from the media or public. With more attention, you’re open to more criticism and you’re going to be “picked on” and punched (figuratively). In the same way a player signs on to a team, you sign on to build a brand, and it’s your responsibility to hold that brand to the highest standards.
“You can’t expect everyone to think like you,” says my husband (who, by the way, doesn’t forgive these athletes any more than I do). But I respond, “If the player were a client, it would be my job to make he/she think my way.” That comes off a little controlling, yes, but when the urge arises … we always advise to take the higher road.
My props to Les Miles, by the way. I’m reminded by Jeff Palermo from WWL in New Orleans, “This team has faced some very interesting challenges during Les Miles’ tenure. From Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, to time-management issues, to back-to-back losses…they have always rebounded.” I agree, and as a fan, I think Les has done the right thing so far. On a positive note … Geaux Tigers!
Now, as for this Nevin Shapiro guy … phew, he’ll get his PR counseling in jail!