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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

Though the College of Charleston doesn't have a football team, its mid-major basketball program plays for high stakes. Thus, the school's firing of men's basketball coach Doug Wojcik on Tuesday was, in essence, a business decision based on a reality that even non-sports fans should understand.

Simply put, Mr. Wojcik was no longer viable as a winning ambassador for the school in the mold of previous Cougar basketball coaches John Kresse and Bobby Cremins.

Mr. Wojcik's two-season stint as coach at the College has been tainted by numerous allegations of verbal abuse by him against players, staff and others.

EARLIER COVERAGE: Charleston Coach Accused of Verbal Abuse on Thin Ice

The rising tide of such complaints eventually prompted school officials to commission an independent investigation by Charleston attorney Christy Fargnoli.

Her 50-page report is based on interviews with, among others, 12 current and former players. Delivered to the school on June 26, the report includes accounts of Coach Wojcik routinely berating his players, school staff and others in harsh, even obscene terms.

College of Charleston athletic director Joe Hull, after seeing the report, advised then-school President George Benson to fire the coach. But though Mr. Benson's tenure was nearly over, he instead suspended Mr. Wojcik without pay for a month (August) and required him to undergo counseling.

The coach agreed to those conditions and issued an apology to "those I've hurt," saying he was sincerely remorseful. However, the public release of the report in The Post and Courier and then other media outlets, in combination with Mr. Benson's dubious decision to keep Coach Wojcik, put new school President Glenn McConnell in an awkward position.

RELATED: Former Player Kept Diary of Wojcik's Behavior

The dilemma facing Mr. McConnell, who honed his conflict-resolution skills as the longtime president pro tempore of the S.C. Senate before serving for two years as lieutenant governor:

a) Keep Mr. Wojcik at the school knowing that the incendiary report would severely undermine his ability to bring in basketball talent while also sending a negative overall message about the institution,

b) fire Mr. Wojcik knowing that President Benson's agreement with him could give the coach legal leverage in demanding that he be paid for the three seasons left on his $400,000-a-year contract.

President McConnell and the school's board of trustees rightly chose the latter course as their only realistic option on Tuesday.

Then in a statement issued Wednesday, the team unanimously backed both the report and the coach s dismissal.

Still, though school officials said Mr. Wojcik was discharged for just cause and therefore isn t entitled to the $1.2 million left on his contract, the legal part of this game isn't over.

Some people are lamenting this outcome as further evidence of American society going soft. But the large volume of ugly incidents in that report, and the lack of refutation about its general truth, forced the College's hand.

The report doesn't just portray Mr. Wojcik as a bully who mistreated his players and others. It attributes to him this appalling remark during one of his tirades at a player: Why are you getting bad grades? This school isn't even hard. When you graduate, you might as well burn your degree because it's not worth anything.

If Coach Wojcik didn't smear the school in that manner, why hasn't he denied that allegation in the five weeks since this newspaper posted the report on our website?

President McConnell, who took charge at the school on July 1, has repeatedly stressed positive priorities, including strengthening the school's University of Charleston program and increasing student body diversity.

So ideally, school officials and Coach Wojcik will reach a final settlement soon.

After all, other important tasks loom at the College of Charleston and not just the hiring of a new basketball coach.

 

August 7, 2014 

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