Updated: Dec 17, 2018
Coaching is hard. Between the administrative tasks, recruiting, creating workouts, mileage plans, optimizing weight room routines, constructing race scheduling, and so much more, the life of a head coach is hectic and certainly not easy.
However, most of the time, it's not enough to just do your job. A program needs to be competitive. You're constantly measured against your rivals, both in and out of your conference.
Naturally, the results of your athletes will be critiqued. Yet, maybe more importantly, so will your job performance.
Just this past week, Notre Dame's head coach Alan Turner left the Fighting Irish. It's unclear whether or not Turner's departure was performance related, but you can't help to think that the lackluster team finishes at the indoor and outdoor ACC Championships played a role in the dismissal. Despite grand success with the women's distance program, recent prosperity with their men's DMR, and an incredibly long list of personal accomplishments, certain aspects of the team didn't always show the same productivity.
Of course, Turner isn't the only coaching casualty as of late. Less than two weeks ago, the University of Washington and coach Greg Metcalf ended their time together after 16 years. The odd phrasing of the press release hinted that there could be an underlying issue. Sure enough, an article posted by UW's The Daily explained that multiple athletes within the Husky program alleged that Metcalf used demeaning insults and inappropriate comments regarding their body fat. The rumors that once seemed to be gibberish and slander, both online and offline, have suddenly become (somewhat) credible.
With that in mind, it's also important to realize that there are many athletes on that team who may have felt that Metcalf's firing was inappropriate and unnecessary. The Seattle Times wrote that some female athlete's were upset at the individuals who reported Metcalf to athletic director Jennifer Cohen and spoke on their behalf without talking to them first. Others described Metcalf as "passionate" and "intense", but later explained that he consistently kept their best interest his top priority.
Regardless of the feelings about Metcalf, both in and out of Washington, it's clear that the Huskies are finishing the 2017-2018 academic year possibly more divided than they once ever were.
The termination of both Turner and Metcalf may symbolize each end of a spectrum that coaches must be able to balance in order to maintain their jobs. It's a balance that involves fighting for the overall success of your program, while also attempting to not overwhelm the personal bounds of the relationships (or lack of relationships) you have with your athletes.
Let's also remind ourselves of a few things. Each coaching situation is different and unique. Each university athletic director has a different timeline and set of criteria for success. Scholarship distributions are structured differently.
Still, when 49% of your male athletes transfer out of the Washington program at a rate that is over 20% higher than other PAC 12 powerhouses, you have to question where the root of the problem may lie. You can thank The Daily for that statistic...
The achievements of your program, the lives of your athletes, and the constant oversight from the running community is fuel that will drive coaches to no end.
With open positions at Eastern Kentucky, Notre Dame, Texas, and Washington, new coaches will have an opportunity to cement their legacies. If the Metcalf allegations hold any merit, it will be a stark reminder to those coaches of what can happen when winning is the first and only goal.