CSL Daily

Faculty Forum – Accountability in Football


Be accountable. It’s an easy statement. Anyone can say the words. It’s even a simple premise. Take ownership over your actions; be responsible for your behavior, and most importantly, act with integrity. If it is so simple and easy, why is it lacking so dearly in big-time college football?

accountabilityWhy? Because when the bright lights shine and the money begins to roll in, human nature takes over. Human nature is a funny thing. During a crisis, it can provide us with super human abilities, but in the wrong culture it can also bring out the worst in us. Greed, pride and our constant battle to prevent failure lead to moral compromise, deceit and poor decisions. And, reading the stories out of Stillwater, OK and College Station, TX this fall it appears college football is currently the wrong culture for human nature.

Football is a great game. The best of all games in my opinion. Through football, there is an opportunity to teach so many positive traits to an athlete. Hard work, dedication, perseverance, temperance and teamwork just to name a few. With all this potential, what is missing in college football that has created the wrong culture? I would argue it is

Let’s take a look at Johnny Football. If true, were the alleged actions of Johnny Manziel this off season the end of the world? Absolutely not, he took money for providing his autograph to the highest bidder. Was it wrong? Absolutely. Not because of what he did, but because it was against the rules. He knew the rules. All college athletes know that rule. Is it a bad rule? Probably, but that isn’t the point. The point is when you are a member of a team or an organization, your actions impact everyone. Be accountable to your teammates.

SI coverHow about Oklahoma State? If true, what role did coaches and administrators play in the transgressions within their football program? Chances are they did not give any money directly to student-athletes, boosters did. They did not provide drugs or women to student-athletes and recruits, others did.  What coaches and administrators failed to do was police the program for wrongdoings and establish a culture of accountability between athletes, boosters and support groups. In this case, it was the inaction of coaches and administrators that created a culture of excess and lawlessness. Sometimes turning a blind eye or ignoring behavior can be as detrimental as acting inappropriately.

Deep within the Oklahoma State’s athletic department mission statement there are two phrases that catch my attention: (1) “…be a positive influence on the reputation and purposes of Oklahoma State University,” and (2) “…prepare student-athletes for lifelong contributions to society.” If the allegations against the football program are remotely true, I cannot imagine an operation that is further from its mission, which brings me back to my main point.

Accountability is not a catch phrase; it is a culture. It is formed and developed by leaders not through a bumper sticker or mission statement, but through consistent and thoughtful actions. Actions that provide subordinates with three things: role clarity, support, and the confidence and freedom to make their own decisions.

Accountability is Coach Jerry Kill, who has taken a debilitating condition and made it into a life lesson for his athletes.  Accountability is Coach Clayton Kendrick-Holmes, who answered the call of duty to teach his football team the true meaning of responsibility.

Accountability can’t throw a touchdown pass. Accountability can’t run the 40 yard dash in under 4.4 seconds. Accountability will never be flashy or be ranked in the top 25. But, accountability takes talent. Loads of it, in fact. It takes integrity, ownership and responsibility. Most of all, it takes confidence to do the right thing no matter what the pressure, and it is needed more than ever in the great game of college football.  Be accountable players, coaches and administrators. As a fan and supporter of college athletics, there is too much at stake to let the great lessons of this game go to waste.


Brendan Dwyer is an assistant professor at the Center for Sport Leadership at VCU. He teaches Foundations of Coaching and Sociology of Sport for the CSL, and has a background in coaching intercollegiate football and youth hockey. His research interests include the consumer behavior of fantasy sport participants and other media-dominant sport fans. He can be reached at 804-827-5131 or



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