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Machiavelli and College Football Coaches

April 17, 2011

By: Brendan Lapinski

Everyone who follows sports or even watches sportscenter from time to time probably has heard of multiple cases of college football coaches “cheating” to get players to come and play for them at their school. These transgressions include calling or texting high school recruits at inappropriate times, hosting dinner parties for recruits, or turning a blind eye to players already on the roster selling their jerseys or equipment for money. These transgressions seem to follow the best and most successful programs also: Pete Carroll at USC which resulted in a two year bowl ban, loss of 30 scholarships, and forfeiture of losses from the 2004-2005 and all of the 2005-2006 seasons, Urban Meyer at Florida helping recruit for another sport to land a wide receiver. The point of all this is, the best programs of the last 10 years have all had some kind of recruiting violation attached to them and this brings up my question. Would Machiavelli approve of their behavior? I tend to think yes because head college football coaches are like a prince in a way. They have to create and maintain an honest image to the public and be seen as a good, honest, hard-working, and truthful person. But at the same time they have to not only be successful off the football field but on it as well and the pressure to satisfy both these needs eventually will lead to cutting corners. Machiavelli in “The Prince” says that a prince has to maintain a good image but also be willing to act immorally for the good of the people, get your hands dirty. The recent and proven allegations against Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel in which he knew about his players selling their jerseys and whatnot for cash but he turned a blind eye and didn’t report these violations of the rules in order not to basically surrender the rest of the season. This eventually, and to my pleasure, lead to a 5 game suspension of both the players and Jim Tressel for the start of the 2011-2012 season. So, in essence, Tressel did act immorally for the good of his team, in the short run, which is a Machiavellian trait, but in the long run did he act in the good of his people, the players, program, student body, and school? And which this I lean towards Machiavelli not approving of his actions or other football coaches actions because in the long run it hurts the school more than it helps. I’m pretty split down the middle on this and it would be interesting if I could hear what any of you think. Would Machiavelli approve of the actions of these head football coaches?

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