Finally, an Answer from KSU

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After stonewalling the public, then being pressed on the issue during Media Day, Dr. Sias finally made a statement concerning the firing of Coach Fred Farrier. She initially responded like Felicia Lewis, Public Relations Director, had previously done in the media by saying it was policy that personnel matters not be discussed publicly. She repeated that statement when asked if it was Kentucky State University policy, as all other public institutions routinely give explanations to the firing of head coaches, and even assistants sometimes. These are public servants being paid with tax dollars, and the fans and public deserve explanations, not secrecy from the university, not just for the firing, but also its timing right before the season begins. It is very rare that a coach is fired little more than a week before the players return, and it is rarer still that the team is successful. In the end, two things became apparent; one, the firing was Dr. Sias' idea and two, she gave the answer she should have given in the first place: After continuous evaluations, we decided to go in a different direction. That is the answer most organizations give when terminating a coach, not "we do not have to give an explanation".

Answers like the latter show that public relations at KSU really need work. It shows a tendency to alienate supporters and give rise to rumors and more questions. That type of answer to an employee also shows lack of understanding of the Kentucky employment laws and supervisory skills. Though it is an at-will state, that does not mean one can terminate an employee at its leisure, nor does it mean that an employee can be terminated for other than just cause. "At-will" does not apply to all employees and to do so for someone who is exempt carries ramifications, as does firing someone without cause.

No one can blame the president for wanting to go in a different direction, especially after the team posted consecutive 3-8 records. However, that should have occurred at the end of last season so another coach could be hired and he could hit the recruiting trails. That shows institutional discipline. As one of the players said, now they have a new offense and a new defense to learn in a very short period of time. Work will be double-time for Coach Dickens, his coaches, of which two were in place and three more were to sign on Friday, and the players. To legitimately be ranked last in the conference is no stretch now. To break even would be quite andaccomplishment and if they achieve that, the interim coach should be given the job.

Finally, the coach should have been given an explanation why he was fired. No good manager evaluates his subordinates then gives them no feedback. That is Business Management 101. The school showed lack of compassion for a man who developed programs that engaged the community, who was able to acquire top level equipment on half a shoestring, and who worked with 19 scholarships annually. Though Dr. Sias was not pleased about the progress of the program, she also did nothing to help make it better. Under guideline 15.5.2 of the NCAA D2 Manual, football could have a limit of 36 scholarships, unless the SIAC stipulates a lower number. By not correctly funding a major revenue generating sport, the program will suffer losses in wins and finances. In other words, KSU got what it paid for. Coach Farrier is not the only one to blame and considering what he had to work with, he did a terrific job during his four years at KSU. That is probably why he served as SIAC Football Coaches Association President, a position awarded by his peers, when KSU fired him.

Fortunately, Dr. Sias did admit her involvement with this decision. Others had blamed Dr. Denisha Hendricks, the new Athletic Director, for the firing. It became clear to those in attendance that she was not calling the shots as Dr. Sias also said in so many words that she is in charge of Athletics as she was at University of Texas-Dallas, a D3 university. The A.D. reports directly to her and they confer regularly. Many had questioned how someone who had been at the university less than a month could correctly evaluate a coach, then make the call to let him go. A few knew who made this decision, but are hoping the President lets her A.D. do the job and grow into a legitimate administrator, not a powerless puppet who does not even control her unit's funding. That is currently controlled by the V.P of Administration and External Relations, an unprecedented move. In another controversial move, the accused football players were punished by Student Affairs before Athletics could act, though no one has blamed Athletics for waiting to see if the players were guilty of a crime. That is also uncommon at institutions of higher learning and sometimes, even at the secondary education level.

In all, Coach Dickens remained positive of a successful campaign. He does not believe they will be last and thinks they will be better on both sides of the ball. Even though he has any years of overall experience over his predecessor, he admitted that he did learn some positive things from him. He also stressed that his players will be part of the overall community and assist others when needed. Will his philosophy carry over to his players? The best way to find out is to attend one of the games. You can view the schedule at http://www.kysu.edu/athletics/football/scheduleResults/default.htm. See you at the games.

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