Steubenville, Ohio, the small town that taught (or at least, “should have taught”) Americans that rape cases are often the subject of powerful efforts to cover up the truth, has decided to reward the highest profile alleged cover-up artists. Because, ugh.
There are basically two related legal arguments for extending the contract of Steubenville head football coach Reno Saccoccia: (1) unless and until he is convicted of something, the school shouldn’t act on mere allegations; and, (2) if the school parted ways with the coach, it exposes itself to a later employment claim.
These arguments are stupid….
For those who’ve already forgotten about the Steubenville case, first, you’re awful, and second, it involved high schoolers raping a fellow student and the town bending over backward to cover up the event to protect their high school football team. We may never have heard of the case at all except the criminals were cooperative enough to create a record for the media and prosecutors with mountains of evidence through texts, pictures, and videos. As I’ve argued before, the lesson of the extensive social media evidence in this case is not that the perpetrators are unique, but that society is beginning to document behavior that historically remained hidden behind powerful walls of silence.
And as far as we can tell from the evidence, a big part of the attempted wall of silence was Steubenville’s head football coach, Reno Saccoccia. He testified on behalf of the convicted rapists to keep them tried as juveniles, and according to statements from the rapists, Saccoccia was aware of the crime and worked to cover it up (which Saccoccia denies).
Saccoccia has not been charged, much less convicted, of covering up the rape. There’s a lot of reason to believe he was involved, but can the school really kick the coach to the curb based on innuendo? Maybe not, but there are plenty of undisputed reasons why no school could, in good conscience, keep Saccoccia on.
Long after his players were arrested, Saccoccia declined to discipline or suspend them. By then, pictures and videos had reached the light of day. At that point, taking action would have been a simple matter of protecting the program. Even if no rape had occurred, visual evidence of drunk underaged players embarrassed the program and warranted discipline. Add in a major crime, and the school has every reason to move on to a new coach.
He threatened a reporter. A school can’t allow one of its public ambassadors threaten reporters. This is something of a no-brainer.
Saccoccia also employed Nate Hubbard as a volunteer assistant coach. Hubbard told the New York Times:
What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that? She had to make up something. Now people are trying to blow up our football program because of it.
Look, every employer can make a bad hire, and one bad hire shouldn’t necessarily result in a pink slip for the boss. But by failing to immediately fire and denounce Hubbard, Saccoccia proved that he lacked the bare minimum leadership qualities required of a football coach, educator, and mentor.
So don’t give me “the school can’t act on allegations.” There is more than enough out there to have fired Saccoccia.
And we’re not even talking about “firing” Saccoccia. This brings us to the second issue, the fear of an employment claim. This was a contract extension. If the school did nothing, Saccoccia’s relationship with the school would have simply run its course. No need to find “cause,” just don’t give him a new contract!
Instead, the school has offered a new contract to someone they know mismanages the football team in every off-field capacity and is likely to bring further shame to the program as the target of an ongoing investigation that will keep the coach, and the school’s leadership who hired him, in the legal limelight.
The bottom line is that there’s no argument, legal or otherwise, to have re-upped with Saccoccia. The whole event reaffirms one of the lessons of the whole case — Steubenville cares more about winning football than anything else.
Gross: Steubenville Football Coach Gets A Contract Extension [Deadspin]
The Steubenville Coach Has Joe Paterno Problems [The Atlantic Wire]