Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fired for Interviewing?

Jeff Jagodzinski, head football coach at Boston College, was fired on Wednesday because he interviewed for the head coaching job for the New York Jets. Many have joked that even interviewing for the Jets head coaching job shows enough lack of judgement to justify termination. As a Jets fan, I have to acknowledge that there might be some truth in that jab.

The Jets history of failure aside, this situation does bring up a interesting discussion about the state of employer/employee relations and how employers position themselves to attract talent. Mr. Jagodzinski was two years into a five year contract with BC, and had been doing very well. Well enough that when the Jets were looking for a new head coach, he was on the short list of candidates. When presented with the opportunity to interview, Coach Jagodziniski took it. He was immediately fired by BC for his actions, which is exactly what BC stated they would do. So at least everything was done with full disclosure, which is good.

But I wonder if BC lost sight of what's really important as this situation was playing out....

I understand BC's desire to have a coach (or more realistically the perception of a coach) who is 100% committed to their school. But at the same time, what did they gain from their stance and actions? It's not like he was interviewing at a conference rival, or for a lateral move, Mr. Jagodzinski had a shot at the big time, the pinnacle of all coaching careers - the NFL.

BC could have supported Coach Jagodzinski and either accepted him back if he didn't get the job, or sent him off in style. If BC chose that strategy, they likely could have leveraged Jagodzinski's accession to the NFL as a selling point in hiring their next coach. BC would be known as a supportive employer, with a high profile program that can help get coaches to the ultimate goal, the NFL. I think that would be an attractive employment brand for BC.

Instead, the situation is now this. Mr. Jagodzinski is out of a job. BC has no head football coach and might have a harder time finding a good one. BC has made it obvious that they expect 100% commitment on the part of the coach for the full length of the contract, regardless of what circumstances arise. But are they willing to reciprocate that relationship? Will they keep a new coach if he starts losing and the program heads downhill? Would the new coach have to watch is back and be worried about his job if he innocently talks with the wrong people?

I don't think those are the questions you want good candidates to be thinking about during and interview process.

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