The recent events involving the Rutgers basketball program confirm a disturbing trend in college athletics. Over the last 30 years the increased emphasis on and pressure to win has helped foster a culture of workplace bullying. Long gone are the days when a football or basketball “coach” were also college professors.
Now individuals are hired by universities almost exclusively to do nothing but sale, market, recruit, train and coach “players”. If you listen carefully to both media and college coaches you here language like, “we coaches understand this is a business”, “Our players…”, “Our teams….”, etc. There’s hardly ever a reference to “student athletes” or “universities” anymore.
The pattern involving images of coaches screaming nose to nose at “student athletes” during televised games has been accepted as “acceptable”. University presidents and alumni put enormous pressure on coaches to win now and win big. Why? Isn’t it obvious…M-O-N-E-Y!! Huge television and corporate sponsor contracts add up to a multi-billion dollar industry called the NCAA.
A USA TODAY article from November 11, 2011 reported among other things this: “average salary (of football and basketball coaches) at top schools tops $1.47M”
Hmmm….compare that with the average salary of the college English, Physics or Math professors which is about $50-70,000. Well known former college basketball coach Bob Knight said college athletics is “big business”. If a college football or basketball coach at a major university doesn’t win big they are usually replaced in 3-5 years.
Many of these men and women are hired because of their coaching skills. By the very nature of the culture encourages a domineering management style. Add to this the huge pressure of “win or else” and you have an environment that’s perfect for workplace bullying. The images of the former Rutgers basketball coach’s display of bullying and the apparent indifference to the verbal and physical assault on players remain for me disturbing.
Unfortunately, the Rutgers scandal is NOT an isolated incident of this type of outrageous bullying. What many don’t realize is that a college, professional basketball court or football field are workplaces!
This of course further encourages the corporate culture of workplace bullying behavior.
However, these and other tactics used are classic workplace bullying signs especially those involving a bully boss such as:
Bully bosses come in all shapes and sizes in any workplace. In my opinion the greater the insecurity the greater the need for control. The coaching profession is no different. Another bully type that many college and professional coaches match is called a “Yeller”. This type of bully in the workplace has to always talk over the target(s). Some of the more specific similarities of bullying characteristics observed in the University of Rutgers athletic workplace…
- yell at the target(s) with the intent to intimidate
- make insults based on race, gender, disability, national origin,sexual preference, etc.
- characterize the target as incompetent, a dummy, unintelligent or stupid
- demean the target(s) in front of others
Other bully boss traits that many coaches exhibit is usually very aggressive and may use intimidating tactics such as…
- temper tantrums
- rant and rave
- fire other coaches (employees) at the drop of a hat
- violent physical attacks
- throw objects
- unjustified reprimands
A culture of corporate business approved bullying that uses competition as a justification is eerily similar to what we see happening at Rutgers and many other institutions of “higher learning”. Lost in the bully boss scandal at Rutgers is the damage to the victims i.e the players and their families. The target victims of bullying often feel helpless and are indeed made to believe they are the problem not the bully.
Look at the situation of a college athlete, he or she is programmed that the coach(es) are LORD and MASTER above reproach and question. Anyone daring to do so has the threat of losing their scholarship and being dismissed from the team hanging over their heads. University administrations abuse this power routinely. This is especially true because of the hypocrisy of “amateur” athletics. The only thing amateur about college athletics is who gets paid and who doesn’t. “Student athletes are under such restrictive guidelines to maintain an “amateur” status that even accepting a hamburger from someone could terminate their scholarship.
Also, in the Rutgers University situation an assistant coach that “dared” to “blow the whistle” about the abuse of players was terminated. This assistant has a pending “wrongful termination” suit against Rutgers. I’m sure his attorney will also amend the complaint to include “retaliation” as well. Certainly, the outrageous videos of bullying abuse by the coach will strengthen this case.
All the while coaches, athletic directors and college presidents make millions of dollars form their athletic programs. The role that corporate approved workplace bullying is playing in college athletics is reflective of the enormous workplace bullying problem across all types of organizations and businesses. There has never been a more important time for career seekers and employees to learn all they can about bullies in the workplace. The shocking revelations about workplace bullying in collegiate athletics should be a wake up call to just how enormous this issue is.
I have created an excellent short video addressing this problem and how to protect YOU and your family from workplace bullying. Check it out NOW!!