Oregon Coaching Disciplinary Records Could be Sealed

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The University of Oregon is considering a change to how it classifies its coaches, and the result is that Oregon coaching disciplinary records could be sealed from public scrutiny.

Oregon Coaching Disciplinary Records Could be Sealed

According to Diane Dietz of The Register-Guard, the public university is weighing re-classifying its coaches from members of the school’s faculty to “officers of administration.” That would allow the school to keep all the personnel files of said coaches, including disciplinary actions, completely private from the people of the state and the press under state law.

To be clear, it’s not that potential misdeeds by coaches at the school would be completely blacked out from public knowledge. Coaches would still be accountable to the school and the state’s board of regents for their conduct both on and off campus. The high-profile nature of their professions makes it unlikely that unethical behavior by such individuals would go completely unnoticed.

The potential change in this situation isn’t about the coaches’ accountability to the school, however. It’s about the university’s accountability to the people of the state whose taxes fund it.

Why The Proposed Change is a Problem

The potential issue is brought to light by recent events at the school. David Reaves, whose tenure as an assistant coach for the Ducks football team was very brief because of his resignation over a DUI arrest, and the suspension of football strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde after many of his players were hospitalized are great examples of the need for the school to maintain its transparency with the media.

If similar events were to occur in the future, and the proposed change were to take place, Oregon would be immune from having to disclose what if any discipline coaches faced from the school. The question would then arise, how would the people of Oregon know that the school had disciplined its coaches for ethical violations at an appropriate level, if at all?

The worst-case scenario is an atmosphere where because the school has no accountability to disclose how its disciplining coaches for violations, the school ceases to do so, at least in a meaningful way. That lack of accountability could then go from the top down, resulting in an atmosphere where there’s no negative consequences for such violations. Oregon has given us little reason to believe that such a scenario is likely, but the fact that it would be at all possible is a concern.

It’s easy to understand coaches’ desires to have their personnel records kept private, especially in matters of discipline. It’s easy to comprehend how Oregon would rather avoid the negative press that is a result of publishing disciplinary matters of coaches. That doesn’t void the school’s responsibility to the people of the state, however.

As long as the school takes federal and state funds to pay its bills, the personnel records of all its employees including coaches should be publicly accessible. Having your career open for public scrutiny is part of being a state employee, especially one at such a high level of notoriety as a coach of the Ducks.

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Derek Helling is a freelance writer who covers the intersections of sport and business, culture and law. He graduated from the University of Iowa in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, double-majoring in Journalism & Mass Communications and Sport Studies. As a fan, he follows Hawkeye athletics, Major League Baseball, the Florida Panthers and the Miami Heat.

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