No matter how awful your performance, you won't be "fired." And we aren't talking about the job of Supreme Court Justice. Nope, this a story about legalese and political correctness run amok in big-time college athletics.
Sure, Joe Paterno's failure to act in the sex abuse scandal in Happy Valley cost him employment after 46 seasons as head coach and 62 overall, but according to Penn State, he wasn't fired. School trustees instead said JoePa would "no longer serve as head football coach."
While college football and basketball coaches are criticized, condemned, vilified and replaced all the time, none of them are actually fired. Its one of those forbidden words that, while popular in the media, has been selectively removed from official school news releases.
"Relieved of his duties," is by far the most popular choice for schools firing coaches, reports the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper's research revealed that 30 percent of recent official university releases from universities used that expression. In second place, with 16 percent, was "released" from his contract. Another phrase is "contract terminated; will not be retained," which was used 12 percent of the time.
Athletic directors and school presidents also tend to use popular sports cliches when a coach has been replaced. "Unfortunately there are days like this," "It's the nature of the business," and "We need a change of direction," are a few of my favorites.
Schools aren't pulling the wool over anyone's eyes, but in the 50 most recent coaching changes in college football and men's college basketball reviewed by the Wall Street Journal's Jared Diamond, none of them used the term "fired."
Penn State's board of trustees vice chairman John Surma announcing Joe Paterno's removal from power.
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