A high school football coach wrote to tell me his team was going to the state finals, but he was troubled. An English teacher had caught three of his players cheating on an exam they had to pass to remain eligible. He told the coach he had passed them anyway, “for the good of the school.”
The coach realized if his players had not really passed the test, they were ineligible and, according to league rules, all games in which they had played must be forfeited, and his team must be disqualified from the finals.
The coach asked me, “What good would it do to report the ineligibility?” The players who committed the act would be devastated, and the ones who didn’t would be unfairly denied their shot at the championship. Parents, players, and others would be furious. The English teacher would get in big-time trouble, and he, the coach, might lose his job. “Wouldn’t the greater good be accomplished if I just kept quiet?” he asked.
Of course not. Although it would take great moral courage to do the right thing – play by the rules and let the chips fall where they may – I told him that’s precisely what he should do.
There were many stakeholders involved (people who would be affected by the decision), and the coach was duty-bound to use his teaching platform to send an unequivocal positive message about honor and integrity. Failing to do so would deprive another team of its right to go to the finals. Looking the other way would undermine his credibility.
It’s a high price to pay, but as the years go by, the decision to pursue the path of honor will be an enduring gift to his players and community.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.