Fort Hays State fires debate coach, suspends debate program
Wichita ? Fort Hays State University has fired its debate coach for losing his temper at a tournament, engaging in a videotaped shouting match that included pulling down his shorts to expose his underwear.
University President Edward H. Hammond also announced Friday that the school was immediately suspending its debate program until problems are addressed at the national level. He said it was important to take a stand against the declining standards of college debate.
The argument between Fort Hays State debate coach William Shanahan and another coach following a tournament match at Cross Examination Debate Association event at Wichita State University in March received nationwide attention after it was posted on YouTube on Aug. 2.
Shanahan told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday that while his reasoning might seem convoluted, he argued with the other coach because he respected her and her opinions.
“Obviously it got out of control, but to be honest I thought I was in a safe house,” Shanahan said. “I thought I was part of a community that handled its problems internally and that recognized the dangers of exposing ourselves – no pun intended – to the rest of the country.”
Hammond said no one from the tournament staff notified university officials about the incident until it was posted on YouTube. Shanahan, an assistant professor of communication studies, has taught at the university for 10 years but does not have tenure.
He led the university’s debate team to a national championship in 2002.
“Everyone has the right to freedom of speech, but these actions are not acceptable for someone who is representing our university,” Hammond said in a written statement.
“If the coach of one of our athletic teams became angry and ‘mooned’ officials, student athletes and fans during a sports event, he or she would no longer be a coach at Fort Hays State University,” Hammond said. “Standards for our debate program are certainly just as high.”
Shanahan said that Hammond is doing what he believes is best for the university.
The video showed Shanahan, 47, in an angry confrontation with Shanara Reid-Brinkley, the debate coach from the University of Pittsburgh, following a debate between the Fort Hays State and Towson State of Maryland.