This second violent incident forced Stoops to take a harder stand against one of his most popular players and suspend him."
Sooners used a crisis management plan to deal with the university's decision, in an effort to prevent bad publicity for the school and the team (Forde, 2004). The following describes how the university handled the crisis the day before it hit the newsstands. In the early afternoon, OU issued a release saying that it had suspended Dvoracek indefinitely and replaced him as captain. The action had been implemented by coach Bob Stoops a few days earlier, but it wasn't made public until the day before the weekend Oregon game.
The school was prepared for the news to create a major rise across the state, starting with the evening newscasts (Forde, 2004). However, the situation did not end there, with the university's release and a canned statement from Stoops. In the late afternoon, the university was forced to deal with reporters, some of whom were escalating the crisis with news of another alleged Dvoracek assault in the past and of an alleged sexual assault complaint against Dvoracek in Oklahoma, neither of which led to charges against the player.
Deciding what to do was difficult for the university for two reasons: all these allegations and incidents resulted in zero police charges against Dvoracek; and he was so highly regarded off the field as an academic All-Big 12 player with a 3.4 GPA in business (Forde, 2004). However, he needed to be disciplined for his actions to preserve the reputation of the team. In the end, Dvoracek was dismissed, although he has the option to remain in school and on scholarship. Stoops, the man in charge of the program, instructed the PR team to disseminate the information to the media.
By morning, when the full story was laid out in the papers, the public was shocked but largely supportive of the action (Forde, 2004). "As Daily Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel wrote in Saturday's paper, this was a firm signal that discipline matters to Stoops -- something most Oklahoma fans want to hear, with the embarrassment from the outlaw-program days of the late 1980s still remembered by many. When your starting quarterback winds up on the cover of Sports Illustrated in handcuffs, as Charles Thompson once did, it's not real good for the image."
The former example shows the importance of communications when dealing with a crisis or scandal. "No person is rich enough to buy back his past; a shattered reputation leaves little to rebuild," says Hessert (1997). This is true for both people and organizations, and is extremely costly.
Effective crisis management plans prepare sports organizations for crises and allow the response to be conducted systematically and professionally (O'Bierne and Ries, 2002). For a crisis management plan to be successful, it is important that organizations take the time to communicate a clear and consistent message, and the need for decisions to be made quickly. According to Fink (1986):."..the more adept you become as a decision maker who has the ability to find opportunity where others routinely take detours, the more skill, success and regard you will have as a crisis manager...."
As more sports organizations credit public relations practice as a key business management tool, the benefits of strategic communications are becoming more apparent in the marketing process (O'Bierne and Ries, 2002). By using effective crisis management models, sports organizations are better prepared to identify 'spot fires' which will enable marketers to extinguish the flames before they damage the organization's reputation.
Fink, S. (1986) Crisis Management: Planning for the Inevitable, American Management Association, New York.
Forde, Pat. (September 22, 2004). Teamwork the key during a crisis. ESPN.com. Retreived from the Internet at http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/columns/story?columnist=forde_pat&page=program/crisis.
Hessert, Kathleen. (1997). How to Prepare PR Professionals for the Dennis Rodman's and Michael Irvin's of Sports. International Sports Summit. Retrieved from the Internet at http://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com/nl/crisismgr000701.html.
Hoffman, Judith. (1999). Keeping Cool on the Hot Seat. Four C's Publishing Co.
O'Beirne, P. Ries, S. (January, 2002). Extinguishing the Fires: Crisis management in sport marketing. Cyber-Journal of Sport Marketing, issn:1327-6816.