Today’s guest post is by WALEKPeppercommer Chris Gillick.
Six months ago, I wrote in these pages about Manhattan College men’s basketball coach Steve Masiello’s resume scandal and loss of a job opportunity, giving advice on how all the parties involved should handle a crisis over the coach’s claiming to have a college degree when in fact he did not.
Masiello’s employer ended up exercising mercy, placing him on unpaid leave until he completed the requirements for his degree, as he was only a few credits short. Following crisis PR to a T, Manhattan announced this news an hour before the start of the Final Four, knowing full well that few would notice. Masiello was eventually reinstated in June.
But Corporate America is not nearly as forgiving as a small, Lasallian liberal arts college whose moments in the spotlight are limited. Earlier this week, David Tovar, a vice president of communications at Wal-Mart, resigned from the giant retailer under circumstances similar to Masiello’s.
There are several parallels here. Masiello and Tovar were rising stars about to move on up in their respective professions, Masiello moving to a bigger school for a lot more money, and Tovar being promoted to senior vice president. They had each attended college for four years, walked in their class’ graduation ceremony, but were a few credits short of a degree. Each moved onto their first jobs at 22 years old thinking all was well and paid their dues on the way up.
The main difference here is the aftermath.
No PR professional ever wants to be the topic of the news themselves, but like any well-trained in-house flack, Tovar spun things to his advantage. He owned up to the reality right away, claimed that all was transparent with Wal-Mart during the vetting process, that he left the company on good terms, and was excited about the next “new adventure” in his life. Given his background and experience with two controversial companies (Wal-Mart and Altria), he will likely have no problem landing a new gig or starting a new agency.
On the other hand, Masiello admits he has some rebuilding to do and is thankful and humbled that Manhattan took him back. In his “I’m out from hiding” interview following his reinstatement, the coach acknowledged that he got 242 congratulatory text messages the night after his team pushed Rick Pitino’s Louisville to the brink in the NCAA Tournament. But after the South Florida fiasco? “Let’s just say my phone’s not ringing as much right now.”