Proper sportsmanship and ethical integrity in coaching were among the fundamental cornerstones laid by the founders of the American Football Coaches Association when the Association came into being in 1922.

The men who were instrumental in establishing the Association emphasized the ideals and principles of mutual honor and respect among their peers and those they coached. They included the AFCA’s founder, Major Charles Daly of the U.S. Military Academy; John Heisman of the University of Pennsylvania; Amos Alonzo Stagg of the University of Chicago; Fielding Yost of the University of Michigan; and J.W. Wilce of Ohio State University, who wrote the original AFCA Constitution.

Stagg gave a report on ethics at the first formal meeting of the Association in 1922.

In 1927, Yost prefaced his Ethics Committee report with remarks that included these excerpts: “Everyone of us here likes to think of the immense values that come to us from intercollegiate athletics and especially football. In my judgment, this hinges entirely on the fact of whether you have real good sportsmanship and fine efforts. The object of all intercollegiate competition should be the result in college friendliness and confidence and goodwill. That never can be developed unless we have good sportsmanship and good ethics...”

Included in his report were 10 ‘ethical standards,’ “only a few of the more important factors that should be a part of every coach’s ethical code,” according to Yost.

1. To look upon one’s coaching work as an integral part of the school system with a definite contribution to make to the cause of education.

2. To keep always in the foreground the fundamental, educational objective of athletic competition and to make other ends subservient to this main purpose.

3. To consider the welfare of the players of paramount importance at all times and not to countenance their exploitation for personal or private gain.

4. To cultivate the confidence and respect of rival coaches, to look upon them as colleagues and friends and to treat them, and to talk to them, as such.

5. To use one’s influence to counteract unfounded rumors of questionable practices or violations of rules by opponents.

6. To give all reasonable support to the officials in charge of the game.

7. To refuse to teach, or permit, methods of techniques or of play contrary to the letter or spirit of the rules.

8. To encourage the players to respect and accept without wrangling, the authority and decisions of the officials and refrain from insulting talk to them or to their opponents.

9. To discourage illegitimate recruiting, betting on the games and all other practices tending to commercialize the players and deprive them of the character-building qualities that should be a vital part of football training.

10. To be gentlemanly and considerate in victory, undismayed and courageous in defeat.

It is likely that these standards were used as a starting point when — more than two decades later — the AFCA membership decided a more formal code of ethics was needed. The written AFCA Code of Ethics was born out of a survey circulated among the membership by the AFCA Ethics Committee in December 1951, prior to the 1952 AFCA Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. Several topics related to the membership’s interest in forming a code of ethics. University of New Mexico Head Coach Dudley DeGroot was chairman of the Ethics Committee at the time.

He included the results of the survey during his report to the membership on January 9, 1952. Among the 17 items included in the survey were these (with responses):

1. The time has arrived when membership should be based upon something more than mere payment of dues: In favor of — 89 percent.

2. A code of ethics should be adopted and adhered to by all members: In favor of — 95 percent.

3. Actions of members which are detrimental to the best interests of the game should be subject to review by a Board (of Review) of our Association: In favor of — 96 percent.

4. Members found guilty by the Board of Review should be expelled: In favor of — 93 percent. The overwhelming positive response by the membership in these areas must have encouraged DeGroot and others and probably provided the impetus he and his committee needed to move forward with the idea.

The 1951 Ethics Committee was composed of chairman Dudley DeGroot, University of New Mexico; Dan Jessee, Trinity College (Conn.); Henry R. Margarita, Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.); H.N. Russell, Southern Methodist University; and Fred Thomsen, Southwest Missouri State College. Anticipating a positive response, Richard Harlow of Western Maryland College (formerly of Harvard University) and Harvey Harman of Rutgers University, past presidents of the Association, had drawn up a resolution that, if adopted by the membership, would initiate the process of drafting a formal written code.

After the committee fine-tuned the original resolution, DeGroot presented it to the members in attendance:

“WHEREAS, the football coaching profession, as represented by the American Football Coaches Association, is aware of and concerned over the recent increase in undesirable publicity regarding intercollegiate athletics, and football in particular, which seems to reflect on the honor and integrity of members of the profession; and

“WHEREAS, such undesirable publicity seems to consist in part of various charges of insinuations against members of the profession; and

“WHEREAS, there may be some coaches in the profession whose conduct may have brought discredit to, and loss of public confidence in, the profession as a whole; and

“WHEREAS, under the present organization of the AFCA, there is no means by which such charges or insinuations can be adequately refuted or confirmed, to the end that the profession can maintain the highest standards of honesty, integrity and sportsmanship, and enjoy the fullest public confidence;

“now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED:

“1. that the American Football Coaches Association instruct the Ethics Committee to prepare a workable Code of Principles and Ethics, which following the final approval by the Trustees, shall be zealously adhered to by all members of the Association, and

“2. that flagrant or persistent violation of this Code shall subject any member of the Association by a fair and thorough investigation by the Ethics Committee, and

“3. that the Trustees shall establish annually from their membership, a five-man Board of Review to receive, consider and act upon such cases as may be referred to it by the Ethics Committee

“and be it further RESOLVED:

“that all college and high school authorities, all sports reporters, and the public at large be urged to support, by appropriate action, the efforts of the AFCA to maintain the highest standards of honesty, integrity and sportsmanship among its members.”

The members unanimously adopted the resolution on January 10, 1952.

University of North Carolina Head Coach Carl Snavely, 1952 AFCA president, selected a committee representing various sections of the country to write the Code of Ethics.

These men served as members of the 1952 Ethics Committee and were primarily responsible for establishing the principles of the document currently in use by the AFCA: Chairman Dudley DeGroot, University of New Mexico; Richard Harlow, Western Maryland College; Bill Murray, Duke University; Lloyd Jordan, Harvard University; Ray Eliot, University of Illinois; Bud Wilkinson, University of Oklahoma; H.N. ‘Rusty’ Russell, Southern Methodist University; and Jesse Hill, University of Southern California.

The committee was thorough. It sought guidance from the legal and medical professions, as well as consulting with university faculty members, athletics directors, coaches and members of the print and electronic media. The final 27-page Ethics Committee report was reviewed sentence by sentence by the AFCA Board of Trustees in early August, 1952. The final version was mailed to all members for review August 15, 1952.

The Code of Ethics was presented to the AFCA membership at the 1953 convention being held at the Hotel Statler in Washington, D.C. When University of Missouri Head Coach Don Faurot, 1953 AFCA president, called for a vote on the adoption of the AFCA Code of Ethics on January 9, 1953, it was accepted by a unanimous vote.

According to the report of AFCA secretary-treasurer Tuss McLaughry two days earlier, the AFCA membership at the time of this historic event consisted of 593 active members and 726 allied members, 23 honorary members and past presidents retired.

Since the Code of Ethics was adopted, additional provisions have been incorporated into the Code, including revisions done under the direction of incoming 1973 Ethics Committee Chairman Vince Dooley, the head coach at the University of Georgia. The revision was adopted by the membership January 10, 1973, at the AFCA Convention in Chicago, Ill.

The most recent updating of the code occurred during the AFCA’s celebration of its 75th anniversary. More than 100 coaching staffs were asked in the summer of 1996 to examine various articles in the code and report their suggestions. Recommendations by the Ethics Committee were approved June 23, 1996, by the AFCA Board of Trustees at its summer meeting held at the AFCA office in Waco, Texas. The revised code was adopted by the membership on January 6, 1997, at the AFCA Convention in Orlando, Fla.

The Code of Ethics history was written by Mel Pulliam, AFCA director of marketing and development.