The front page of today’s USA Today’s sports section has a story covering the scandal that has plagued my alma mater (Binghamton University) and its basketball program. During my career I have been involved in my share of cases that have, for one reason or another, garnered some attention from the media. My advice to companies that find themselves in the media spotlight – hire a public relations firm to professionally handle the media.
Here’s what we know about the problems at Binghamton from the story:
- In a quest to make the basketball program successful in a short amount of time, the coach recruited kids with suspect backgrounds, but whom he wanted to give a second chance.
- The school has kicked six players off the basketball team, five for undisclosed violations and the other following his indictment on drug charges.
- The school is embarrassed, the basketball program is in shambles, and its league and others are questioning the price being paid for Division I athletic success.
The articles quotes criticisms from alumni, other schools, and other conferences. And the school’s non-response: “Binghamton president Lois DeFleur declined to comment through an aide, as did [Coach] Broadus, interim athletics director Jim Norris and former AD Joel Thirer, a tenured professor who will move in the short term to the university provost’s office.” While I understand the need for discretion during an internal investigation, the school should have had some response prepared, even if it’s merely something like, “The University is committed to running its athletic program in accordance with all NCAA rules and guidelines, and following its internal investigation will take appropriate corrective action, if necessary, consistent with those rules and guidelines.” Simple, to the point, and most importantly, non-incriminating.
The next time your business finds itself in the unwanted glare of the media spotlight, consider bringing in a media expert to help manage the crisis, deflect the attention, and prepare an appropriate response.