How one tweet could cost Tracy Claeys his job at Minnesota
Don’t underestimate the power of social media.
It’s the blanket message that every single coach preaches to his players. Teams like Iowa don’t even allow for their players to have active Twitter accounts. That’s because there’s a lot of damage that can be done in 140 characters.
Tracy Claeys might learn all about that. His 112 characters might’ve cost him his job.
Minnesota boycotted team activities because of the university’s decision to suspend 10 players even though no arrests were made, which administration said Claeys signed off on. But players didn’t believe that. And in a moment he can never get back, Claeys hitched his wagon to his players:
Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world! 〽️????
— GoldenGopherHFC (@GoldenGopherHFC) December 16, 2016
What’s wrong with a coach supporting his players? In a vacuum, nothing. That’s obviously the way Claeys saw that. He didn’t want his name dragged through the mud and he didn’t want his players thinking he did something he didn’t.
But players won’t be the ones Claeys has to look in the eye and negotiate a new contract with. That’s president Eric Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle.
Did they put Claeys in an impossible spot? Absolutely. But Claeys put himself in an even worse spot by opposing his bosses.
For those who question why Claeys would be fired, history — or lack thereof — is important to remember. Coyle took the Minnesota AD job before the start of the 2016 season. He came from Syracuse, where he was on the job for less than a full year. In that time, however, he still managed to fire a football coach.
By all accounts, Claeys and Coyle have had a solid relationship in the brief time that they’ve been working together. A couple weeks ago, it looked like they were on the brink of a significant extension for Claeys that would’ve kept him in Minneapolis for several years. Claeys even said that he was “humbled” by Coyle’s support.
Why wouldn’t Coyle support Claeys? He capped off an eight-win season, which marked the first time in program history that the Gophers won eight games in three of four seasons. A new contract seemed imminent.
But while negotiations were ongoing, so was the university’s investigation of the Sept. 2 incident that 10 Minnesota players were allegedly involved in. There was a reason that deal didn’t get done.
And after Claeys’ tweet, it’d be shocking if a new deal gone done. It’d be shocking if Claeys was back in 2017, too.
Coyle doesn’t owe Claeys anything. Well, except a small $500,000 buyout if he fires him. Eight wins are nice, but they don’t give Claeys a pass to publicly oppose his bosses and not face any consequences. He knew that. That’s why he said there’s “a great chance” he could lose his job.
There are few coaches on this earth that can get away with publicly opposing their bosses on a highly sensitive issue. Claeys isn’t one of them.
Wins and losses are thrown out the window when coaches publicly oppose administration. There can’t be a constant struggle between those two parties. That’s not how programs succeed.
Minnesota absolutely needs stability at the head coach position if it ever wants to get on the level of Wisconsin or any other B1G West contender. Some will argue that Claeys still needs to be that guy. After all, it was one tweet. Can’t that be forgiven?
Don’t count on it.
Claeys didn’t take one for the team. He didn’t let Coyle take him down with him. Instead, he shared his opinion when the vast majority of coaches would’ve remained silent.
He didn’t regret it, either. Claeys wanted to show his commitment to his players and send a message to the world that nobody lies on his behalf.
It was a nice gesture by Claeys to personally pledge $50,000 to sexual assault victims. He’ll coach through the Holiday Bowl that his team nearly skipped. He’ll try and get his players’ focus back to beating a quality Washington State team. A statement victory would send a loud message to those who doubted Claeys.
But with 112 characters, might’ve already sent the only message that mattered.