McMaster University players seethe at football coach’s firing

A month after he allegedly said or did something wrong to an official during a game, McMaster’s head football coach has paid for his apparent sin with his job.

Greg Knox was fired Monday.

“An independent third-party report into an incident involving McMaster’s head football coach Greg Knox has now been received by the university,” says a release on the McMaster Daily News, the school’s in-house website. “After careful consideration, the university has determined it will be proceeding with a leadership change of the football program. Knox is no longer employed by the university and not part of the coaching staff.”

So that would seem to be that. End of story.

Not quite. Not according to the players, anyway.

“It’s absolutely abysmal how this has been handled,” says one Marauder who spoke on the condition of anonymity since he says the players have been instructed not to talk about the situation. “It’s embarrassing.”

Knox had no comment Monday. But 18 players spoken to by The Spectator on Monday say they are infuriated by the way they were told about the firing. Many described the explanation to the players in the locker-room as half-hearted, “disrespectful” and poorly delivered.

While the actions of the 48-year-old coach may well have been problematic — we don’t really know since the school is citing privacy considerations and won’t disclose any details of what it determined he did other than to mention “allegations of harassment and threats of physical violence” to an official during a game in September — the way the firing was handled left many feeling decidedly sour toward their university.

Not just players. Coaches and parents, too.

The fact that Ontario University Athletics dealt with the same incident and determined Knox should be suspended one game while the university handed down the death sentence enraged players. Especially a number who say they chose to attend McMaster specifically to play for him.

That the investigation dragged on for a month didn’t help. The OUA managed to have its hearing and then consider an appeal in a fraction of that time. The ongoing uncertainty from Knox’s administrative leave that saw him miss three games was a challenge for the coaches and players.

“The fact that they left these kids hanging for four weeks is disappointing, but it isn’t surprising,” says Carol Edwards, co-ordinator of the McMaster Marauders Parents of Players Group, which has asked for a meeting with the school.

Finally announcing this decision shortly before their first playoff game (Saturday at Carleton) really drove up the group’s collective blood pressure. One player called it “disheartening” and said the school had turned its back on the players who’ve worn its colours and sacrificed their bodies for it.

Of course, announcing the firing after 5 p.m. on election night was curious, too. A cynical person might think it was an attempt to fly under the radar on a busy news day.

The school’s announcement ended with a note about the future. It says a new national coaching search will begin as soon as the current season is over. That could be this weekend.

That’s a mistake in the making.

McMaster is without an athletics director right now. That person will ultimately be the boss. He or she should therefore be doing the searching, interviewing and hiring to fill significant positions like this one. Yet the search for a new AD won’t even begin until next month. Which means the employee could be chosen before the person to whom he’ll eventually answer.

The university has a uniquely messy situation on its hands right now. Waiting until a new person with a clean slate is in place to oversee this hiring process would be the wise move. Having folks without the trust and respect of those in and around the program do the hiring would only paint the new guy as one of them.

The way this group feels about what’s happened, that would be unnecessarily doubling down on hard feelings. Which would certainly show who’s in charge — for now, anyway. But to what end?

Must Read