San Diego recruited for performance AND character. So should your business.

CNN is reporting a deal between Federal prosecutors and Michael Vick’s legal team regarding the dog fighting related charges filed against him, which include the use of cruel methods of execution of his dogs. Vick’s troubles are another in a seemingly endless list of athletes whose millions, homes, cars, companions and business interests aren’t enough to entertain them.

Ever wonder when or if professional sports (much less college sports) will figure out that the hiring and subsequent glorification of drugs, thugs and “gangstas” is not only stupid, but bad for business? Maybe it’s when we stop buying tickets and official gear, but hopefully they figure it out before that.

It’s easy to make the excuse “if we don’t draft them, we’ll meet them on the field as an opponent”, but that is a short-sighted vision when that player misses games due to criminal trials, hearings, wife beatings, jail time, suspensions due to failed drug tests, drug-impacted performance, performance pressure from criminal elements and so on.

It’s time that organizations get a grip on the fact that the behavior of their players reflects on them, their community and their business.

When Montana State University (Bozeman, Mont) officials saw a pattern emerging with their football players having run ins with the law, their response was to fire the coach. Their view apparently was that the coach either recruited them or kept them on the team, and personal responsibility aside, he is ultimately held responsible for the behavior of his players. It doesn’t reflect well on State, the state of Montana or its people when players are in the news at the same time as the words drugs and murder. State isn’t out of the wringer yet, but getting rid of leaders with a tolerance for this kind of behavior is a start.

Where the SI article linked above goes wrong is assigning the blame (in so many words – they weren’t brave enough to just come out and say it) to the recruiting of urban black athletes to a small, mostly-white rural university. That’s not what it’s about, as much as SI tried to get you there.

Recruiters and coaches aren’t stupid. In sports, they have the skills and experience to know not only which kid’s hands, speed and natural ability are what they really need, but also which kid is going to struggle in school, and which one has a horrible chance of succeeding in college (or the pros) even with a ton of help – despite the amazing athletic ability. Balancing those things vs the pressure to win is what exposes the character of the recruiting staff and coaches.

In business, you have to have similar abilities to choose well.

A player’s character is more important than his high school/college grades, or natural ability over the long term. It reflects upon their future behavior in college or the pros when a bad opportunity comes their way. What the athlete has inside them, and what they will do when presented with good and bad opportunities is as at least as important as that 4.2 time in the 40, much less their GPA. Same goes for employees.

Oh yeah, what about those San Diego Chargers? San Diego traded away their #1 pick in the 2001 NFL draft and chose 4th instead. Seemed like a nutty idea at the time, but it turned out ok.

San Diego selected LaDainian Tomlinson from TCU.

So far, Tomlinson is a 4 time Pro Bowl player who not only holds numerous NFL records but is close or shares a number of others. When LaDainian left the TCU football team, he kept a promise to his mother (that character thing…) to complete his degree (Communications). Best of all, you haven’t seen a mug shot of him on CNN.

Who got San Diego’s #1 pick in the 2001 draft? The Atlanta Falcons.

They chose Michael Vick.

Recruit for performance AND character when looking for a new member of your staff.