It was a roller coaster of events: a basketball coach led his team to its first NCAA tournament in a decade, only to see the players’ dreams crushed by the opposing team. After the loss, he spun his successes into another job, only to see the offer withdrawn after a mistruth on his resume came to light.
The story of Manhattan College’s coach Steve Masiello could have made for a sports movie, but for students at Manhattan College, it was prime fodder for an ethical debate.
On April 7, Manhattan College released a statement announcing it would reinstate Mr. Masiello as head coach once he completes his degree at the University of Kentucky, the college where he studied and played hoops as an undergraduate — but never finished his degree, as a University of South Florida investigation found out.
Manhattan sophomore Matthew Lucey chastised the college for reinstating the coach, equating its decision to “selling our values for sports championships.”
“We gave him a chance because we’re dying to have him back, especially after he agreed to a contract with USF,” said Mr. Lucey, who felt ethics were not present in the debate to restore Mr. Masiello to his position.
Junior Dean Gizzo, a chemical engineering student, agreed with Mr. Lucey’s sentiments. For Mr. Gizzo, the school placed its desire to have a successful basketball team over its commitment to Catholic virtues.
“I think it was a business decision and not a morality decision,” he said. “I think that’s not what Manhattan College is about.”
Other students were less certain that the school’s decision went against its morals. For sophomore Colin Lynch, there was no way to make an ethical determination about the situation without knowing more about the factors surrounding the lie on the resume.
“If we knew whether he purposely did it or not, then we could say whether it was a good decision or not,” he said.
Philosophy major Pat King felt the decision warranted a deeper discussion of ethics.
“From Kant’s perspective, what he did was ethically wrong,” he said, agreeing that castigating or absolving Mr. Masiello would have to be based on the coach’s intentions in fabricating the truth. But he also pointed to the college’s commitment to a balance between justice and mercy.
“It’s still in keeping with the college’s Lasallian values, because it’s mercy,” he said.
Chemical engineering student Ray Lumosko felt the school was sending the wrong message to students about to enter the work force.
“They make it seem like it’s okay to cheat if you’re successful,” said Mr. Lumosko.
He added that if a “normal” person lied on his or her resume, that individual would be fired.
“I feel like it goes against the ethics of the school,” he said.
On the other hand, junior Anthony Skrobola, while disagreeing with Mr. Masiello’s actions, said the school was in the right to re-hire the coach.
“This is his career,” he said. “He would have been out of work. He’s a person, this is his job, and this is his life.”
But the decision raised concerns outside of the realm of ethics for senior Mariangela Fiorenza. For Ms. Fiorenza, Manhattan College showed an open-mindedness toward education that has been missing in the past.
“It’s just not the right message to send to students that just because you don’t have an education, you can’t succeed,” she said. She has several relatives who did not graduate from school, but who nevertheless went on to become successful.
“Just because he doesn’t have the proper paperwork, [it] doesn’t mean they can take away the successes he’s had over the past three years,” she said.
Manhattan College’s chaplain, Father George Hill, also weighed in on the debate, speaking from the perspective of Manhattan College as a religious institution.
“It’s a Catholic college, and you have to balance forgiveness and justice,” he said, stating he believed strongly in the decision to give the coach a second chance. Aside from the ethical issues, he felt the coach’s success over the past three years spoke for itself.
“Beyond the wins, I think he’s kind of energized the student body… beyond athletics,” he said. “And he relates well to the student body in general.”