Unwrapping A Gift Debacle

By Staff

Athletic Management, 17.5, August/September 2005, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/am/am1705/wugift.htm

In many communities, there’s a longstanding tradition of booster clubs giving coaches thank-you gifts at the end of the season. But what happens if that token of appreciation is a sum of money larger than the coach’s stipend?

At Greenwich (Conn.) High School, the boys’ ice hockey coach allegedly received $8,000 in cash gifts from the team’s booster club last spring. The coach, whose stipend is $6,500, has been suspended with pay from both his coaching and teaching duties while the school district investigates the incident. The administration is also re-examining its policies and procedures for informing parents, student-athletes, and coaches about what sort of gifts are acceptable.

Michael Maghan, Chair of the National Federation of State High School Associations’ Coaches Education Committee, believes any coach who follows the NFHS Coaches’ Code of Ethics would not accept such a gift. “That code does not say, ‘You should not take money but that is an ethical issue,” says Maghan, who is also Athletic Director at McNary (Ore.) High School. “We’re in the business of promoting the ethical value of athletics. How ethical is accepting a large sum of money from boosters?”

Maghan says that better policing of booster clubs is another way to avoid this type of situation. At McNary, though there is no specific policy on gift giving, there is a rule that any disbursement or grant over $500 has to be approved by the entire membership. “That clause is in there to keep these kinds of situations from happening,” says Maghan.