Coaches' Perceptions of Conference Code of Ethics

Article excerpt


In society today, there is a greater concern about the moral and ethical conduct of those in leadership. In particular, rules violations within intercollegiate athletics have risen, which has lead to increased pressure on administrators to encourage positive ethical behavior within the realm of their influence. One result of this greater concern about moral and ethical conduct has been the establishment of codes of ethics by intercollegiate athletic conferences. These codes are an attempt to provide guidance to those involved with intercollegiate athletics. With this in mind the current study examined perceptions of coaches relative to codes of ethics being used by NCAA intercollegiate athletic conferences. A sample of head coaches from NCAA Division 1, 11, and 111 institutions were utilized for the present study. Of the 354 coaches sampled, 109 completed and returned the questionnaire for a response rate of 31%. Results indicated coaches rated the ideals of sportsmanship, promotion of values (e.g., honest, integrity, and fair play), healthy environment, and professional conduct as most important to be included in a code of ethics. Coaches' stated codes should be directed at athletic administrators, coaches and student-athletes with athletic administrators and coaches being responsible for ensuring ethical conduct of those involved with intercollegiate athletics. When asked whether a code should be specific, general or a combination, more than half the sample indicated a code should contain both specific and general standards and warnings. Two differences in perceptions of coaches based on gender and division were identified Additional findings and implications for athletic administrators and coaches, as well as recommendations for future research are discussed.


For most individuals who are involved in the academic study of sport and/or training of sport management personnel, the need for improved ethical behavior has long been understood (Kjeldsen, 1992). The depth and frequency of rules violations indicates that many sport administrators are either unable to control events within their grasp, or are themselves part of the problem (Kjeldsen, 1992). Frey (1994) noted that 75% of Americans believe that intercollegiate athletics is "out of control", and is at times detrimental to the educational institution. The first Knight Commission Report (1991) suggested the problems in intercollegiate athletics, if unchecked, would destroy its intrinsic value, as well as the high moral ground it should occupy in higher education. A follow up report conducted by the Knight Commission (2001) stated that despite improvements in some areas, additional problems have arisen in intercollegiate sport and the overall condition of the enterprise has continued to deteriorate. The Knight Commission (2001) goes on to report that during the 1990's over half of Division I-A institutions were sanctioned or placed on probation for various rules violations. The authors of the report contend that violations of NCAA rules appears to be the norm rather than the exception (Knight Commission Report, 2001)

Unethical behavior among coaches, student-athletes, and spectators is clearly escalating. Mahony, Fink, and Pastore (1999) found both the number of major NCAA violations and the severity of those violations have been continually increasing. This finding is consistent with the number of media reports detailing incidents of unethical behavior exhibited by administrators, coaches, and student-athletes (Almond, 1995; Robbins, 1995a; Robbins, 1995b). Incidents of unethical behavior are not just confined to administrators, coaches and student-athletes. For example, inappropriate behavior by spectators at the University of Notre Dame prompted the Big East Conference Commissioner to remind all conference institutions of their responsibilities regarding crowd conduct (Blaudschun, 2000). These incidents and the others similar in nature have prompted many leaders in higher education to call for intercollegiate athletic reform and improved ethical behavior by sport administrators, coaches, student-athletes, and fans (Shulman & Bowen, 2001). …


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