College Coach or Corporate Flack? Who Comes Out Ahead In Resume Flap?

Today’s guest post is by WALEKPeppercommer Chris Gillick.

Fake-University-Diploma-Template-03Six 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.”


4 thoughts on “College Coach or Corporate Flack? Who Comes Out Ahead In Resume Flap?

  1. Interesting take on college sports versus corporate America. I think there will always be contrasts between the two. People bring this up a lot with the Ray Rice/Adrian Peterson/and half the NFL players fiasco. If they had been employees at a corporate firm, would the initial response by the employer been as lenient? Sometimes college and pro sports give off the impression of a place where you can essentially pay an indulgence for a license to be bad. I think that there should certainly be more consistency regarding discipline practices across all industries. If you’re lying about a qualification, then you should be fired. However, if you’ve proven yourself for a number of years and are mere credits shy of a degree, maybe there is some consideration to your years of service so you have a shot of being successful with the proper qualifications. I think Manhattan College got it right and I hope Masiello goes on to be successful.

  2. Peter,

    Thanks for sharing. I’m of the opinion that if you have talent and produce in a given profession, then having a degree or not should not be the issue. It’s claiming that you do when in fact you don’t which causes problems.

    I’ve changed my tune on this a bit, as there are lots of circumstances like these two who attended college during the prescribed 4 years, but departed campus just a few credits short. But as one moves up the ladder in his/her field, scrutiny increases and these things come up. I can see where they were coming from, as once you leave school, gain traction in the workforce, and begin establishing a life, there’s often little reason or time to tie up these loose ends.

    • Agreed. Of course my father wasn’t going for high-profile jobs like Tovar and Masiello. The stakes are quite different. I agree with Paul that Manhattan College handled it correctly.

  3. I can relate to this personally. My father was very upset with me when I decided not to go straight to college after high school and took a year off.

    It turns out that the old man left college in December 1941 with one semester left. He joined the U.S. Merchant Marines for 4 years, came home, got married, had kids and took a series of jobs that were below his talents. He never completed his degree, for reasons never completely clear to anyone.

    I do know that he lied about it on several occasions to get jobs. He was also found out in some instances and fired for it once. It took about 20 years before he was stable enough for it not to be an issue.

    Not that it matters now but FWIW, I did get my communications degree and was telling the truth when you hired me at EPB.