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Texas A&M Fumbles Football Coach Firing

Coaching college football is a tough job. The hours are long, the pressure is intense, and if you don’t win—and win soon—you’re gone.     

That’s not news to sports fans in Kansas. Last week KU fired football coach Turner Gill following two lackluster seasons. “There’s only two things in athletics, results and hope,” former KU coach Glen Mason said. “There’s a lot more hope out there than results because results are too hard to get.” But without results or hope, the coach’s days are numbered.  
So it was no surprise that Texas A&M fired coach Mike Sherman yesterday. The talent-loaded Aggies started the season with great promise, but skidded to a 6-6 record as a result of several late-game collapses. But the way Texas A&M handled Sherman’s discharge should make any human resources professional cringe.
Here’s how it went down, as described by Sherman himself: “I was on a recruiting trip … we were almost in the driveway when I got a call from our athletic director informing me of termination. It was disappointing to me because my family found out before I did, because it was released before I was told. I think we’re better than that.”
In Texas A&M’s defense, perhaps there were extenuating circumstances that are not known to the public. But it sure seems that with a little planning the university could have been handled things better that it did. 
As any good manager or HR pro knows, discharge meetings should be conducted discreetly and professionally. Deliver the news personally—not over the phone or by email. Choose a time and location to minimize the employee’s discomfort. Do it as discreetly as possible in a private office or conference room (but have an appropriate witness present). Make sure the employee hears it first from you—not a co-worker, the rumor mill, an email to all employees, or a press release. And give the employee the opportunity to remove his or her personal items and exit gracefully to the fullest extent possible. 

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Don Berner, the Labor Law, OSHA, & Immigration Law Guy
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Boyd Byers, the General Employment Law Guy
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Jason Lacey, the Employee Benefits Guy
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