PVA&M women’s basketball coach Dawn Brown was fired by the university for dismissing two players from her team for being in a relationship. Brown had created the rule prior to it’s violation, and cleared it with the university. The rule stated: “Players may not have nonprofessional relationships with other players, coaches, managers, trainers, or any other persons affiliated.” Brown put the rule in place after an assistant coach was fired for having an inappropriate relationship with a player.
However, the two players who were dismissed from the team accused Brown of violating Title IX laws, which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Brown feels like the university has thrown her under the bus, considering she went through the Title IX compliance office before implementing the rule. “Clearly, I feel betrayed and unjustly penalized by this action,” she told USA Today.
I can totally understand why Brown would have such a rule in place. Any coach at any level is going to want her/his team to be able to focus in on the goals at hand. Having people who are in emotional, intimate relationships, can bring personal issues to the forefront.
One of the most difficult, and under-appreciated parts of coaching is managing the day to day relationships of teammates. That is true on the high school, college and professional level. A team is made up of several personalities, and sometimes different agendas. The head coach has to be able to forge those personalities towards one goal.
Now, imagine there being an intimate relationship between players, and then when a ‘lover’s quarrel’ erupts, or the relationships comes to an end, and it is not on a good note? Will they be able to play together? Practice together? Will other teammates take sides? How much friction will that bring to the team?
A former NCAA Division I college player explained that homosexuality has long been a part of women’s basketball, as well as teammates dating. Coaches found other ways to handle relationships issues.
“We had it when I played,” she said. “And if you got caught up in that, they were going to come up with something else to get you off the team. If it is not your grades, it will be something else.”
Now, imagine, if you have two or three couples dating on the team? The possibility for inner turmoil is there, and the job of the coaching staff is to find a way to control it. The military, many businesses, school systems and other organizations have similar anti-fraternization policies for similar reasons.
There are relationship issues in men’s programs as well. Machismo, aggression, and competitiveness among male athletes assure there will be some conflicts on male teams. Although homosexuality isn’t as open in men’s sports, dating is still dating.
There are times when teammates could have an interest in the same person. For example, one teammate could be fooling around with another teammate’s girl. Those issues are surely to come up from time to time, and likely cause problems.
However, they don’t seem to be near the potential problems of coaching women where homosexuality is not as tightly closeted, and thus where emotional dramas may more readily come into play.
So Dawn Brown was faced with a tough choice in establishing her fraternization policy. No one wants to attempt to interfere with someone else’s personal life choices, but a coach has to act first and foremost in the interest of the team. Reduction of personal tensions should always be a primary goal of a coach.
Here the easy call should have been on the part of the institution that approved the policy, and then threw a good and competent coach under the proverbial bus.
It seems like Prairie View failed to stand behind its coach.
(Editor’s note: We will be discussing the Prairie View controversy on Tuesday’s edition of The African-American Athlete talk show. Hall of Fame basketball player Pamela McGee will be our guest. McGee, the mother of NBA player JaVale McGee and University of Texas center Imani Boyette, is a legend in the sport of basketball. She has won NCAA and professional titles, along with an Olympic Gold medal during her career. She was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame in 2012. The African-American Athlete airs from 10-12 p.m. EST on the Talk2MeSportsradio network. Call 213-943-3407 to talk or listen. An internet link will be available on Tuesday.)