Code of Ethics - AFCA

Code of Ethics

Ethics Committee Chairmen

Year(s) Chairmen School
1923 Amos Alonzo Stagg University of Chicago
1924 W.A. Alexander Georgia Institute of Tech.
1925 No record
1926 George E. Little University of Wisconsin
1927-28 Fielding H. Yost University of Michigan
1929 A.J. Sampson Tufts University
1930 Dana X. Bible University of Nebraska
1931 W.A. Alexander Georgia Institute of Technology
1932 Dr. A.H. Sharpe Washington University (Mo.)
1933 Chet Wynne Alabama Polytechnic Institute
1934 Ossie Solem University of Iowa
1935 Clark D. Shaughnessy University of Chicago
1936 R.A. Higgins Pennsylvania State College
1937 Noble Kizer Purdue University
1938 Frank Murray University of Virginia
1939 W.H. Spaulding UCLA
1940 Frank Murray University of Virginia
1941 Harvey Harman Rutgers University
1942 G.A. Oliver University of Oregon
1943-45 No Committee (World War II)
1946-47 Frank Murray Marquette University
1948 Jess Neely Rice Institute
1949 Henry R. Sanders UCLA
1950 Don Faurot University of Missouri
1951-53 Dr. Dudley DeGroot University of New Mexico
1954-61 Bill Murray Duke University
1962 Murray Warmath University of Minnesota
1963-65 Bill Murray Duke University
1966-68 Dick Colman Princeton University
1969-72 John Pont Indiana University
1973-81 Vince Dooley University of Georgia
1982-93 Grant Teaff Baylor University
1994-98 John Mackovic University of Texas
1999-2000 Jim Caldwell Wake Forest University
2001-2006 Fisher DeBerry U.S. Air Force Academy
2007-2013 Jim Grobe Wake Forest University
2014-2020 Pat Fitzgerald Northwestern University
2021-present James Franklin Penn State University


The distinguishing characteristic of a profession is that its members are dedicated to rendering a service to humanity. Personal gain must be of lesser consideration. Those who select football coaching must understand the justification for football is that it provides spiritual and physical values for those who play it, and the game belongs, essentially, to the players.

The welfare of the game depends on how the coaches live up to the spirit and letter of ethical conduct and how coaches remain ever mindful of the high trust and confidence placed in them by their players and by the public.

Coaches unwilling or unable to comply with the principles of the Code of Ethics have no place in the profession.

Formation of a Code and procedures for its enforcement were approved unanimously by the American Football Coaches Association at the 29th annual meeting held in Cincinnati, Ohio on January 10, 1952. Since then, additional provisions have been adopted and incorporated into the Code, the most complete revision being in 1997.

The committee on ethics that year presented the new revision to the American Football Coaches Association, and the association unanimously approved the revised code on January 7, 1997, at the 74th annual meeting held in Orlando, Florida.

This Code should be studied regularly by all coaches and its principles should always be followed. Violation of the Code should be reported to the Ethics Committee.


The Code of Ethics has been developed to protect and promote the best interests of the game and the coaching profession. Its primary purpose is to clarify and distinguish ethical and approved professional practices from those which are detrimental. Its secondary purpose is to emphasize the purpose and value of football and to stress proper functions of coaches in relation to schools, players, and the public. The ultimate success of the principles and standards of this Code depends on those for whom it has been established, the football coaches.


The Committee on Ethics shall consist of a chairman and twelve (12) members. One Division I head coach shall be appointed to represent each of the nine districts. Each of the following AFCA Divisions shall have a head coach appointed to the Committee on Ethics: Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III and NAIA. Assistant coaches may be selected on an ad hoc basis for cases pertaining primarily to other assistants. Each new appointment to the Committee on Ethics shall be for a three-year term. In the event that conferences, districts, and/or divisions change in alignment, the make-up of the committee shall be arranged to provide equal representation from each succeeding district and/or division.


Section 1.

Submission: All proposed amendments shall be submitted in writing to a member of the Board of Trustees.

Section 2.

Adoption: The proposed amendment, together with the opinion of the trustees, shall be read at the annual business meeting of the Association, and a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting in person shall be necessary for the adoption of said amendment.


  1. The Committee on Ethics is empowered to investigate any and all alleged violations of the Code. When an alleged violation is brought to the attention of the Committee on Ethics from any source, the method of proceeding with investigative action and requesting an appearance before the Committee shall be determined by a subcommittee consisting of the chairman, one at-large-committee member and the committee district representative. Upon a decision to bring an alleged violation before the Ethics Committee, the member coach involved shall be notified thirty (30) days prior to the annual scheduled meeting date.

    The member coach shall appear before the committee at the designated date and time. The Committee may request of the member coach that any official investigation data be forwarded to the committee. The member coach may submit to the committee any information relative to the alleged violation.

  2. There is to be no acceptance of prima-facie evidence of a violation in any case. The member coach shall not be presumed in violation of the Code of Ethics because an institution has been found in violation of Article III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association or the conference rules and regulations to which that institution is a member. If the Committee on Ethics finds the member coach not in violation of the Code of Ethics, the committee shall write a letter to the member coaches, president and athletic director, detailing their findings.

    The proceedings before the Ethics Committee shall entitle both the Ethics Committee and the alleged violator to call witnesses on their behalf and each shall have the right to cross-examine witnesses at the hearing.

  3. If the Committee on Ethics finds the member coach in violation of the Code of Ethics, it may elect one or more of the following courses of action:

    1. A letter of reprimand.
    2. A letter of reprimand with copies of the letter to the member coach’s president and athletic director.
    3. Place the member coach on a one-year probation. Any violation of the Code of Ethics during the probationary period will result in immediate and indefinite suspension of membership.
    4. Recommend to the President and Board of Trustees of the AFCA the suspension of membership for a period of one or more years.

    After proper notification, should the member coach fail or refuse to appear before the Committee on Ethics, without cause, he shall be subject to immediate probation. Failure to appear at the subsequent annual meeting will result in a recommendation to the Board of Trustees that he be indefinitely suspended from the membership of the association.

    Any coach who has failed or refused to appear before the Committee on Ethics or has been placed on probation or suspended for failure to appear before the Committee on Ethics, shall be required to appear before the Committee on Ethics before he will be considered for reinstatement as an Active member in good standing.

    A quorum of the Ethics Committee shall consist of a majority of the members of that committee, and to be found in violation of the Code of Ethics a majority of the quorum shall have voted by secret ballot and found the alleged violator guilty as charged. A finding of ‘guilty’ may be determined by a simple preponderance of the evidence.

  4. The Board of Review shall act as an appeal board for members who have received disciplinary action from the Committee on Ethics. A member who wishes his case reviewed shall notify the chairman of the Board of Review, who shall then ask the Board of Review to meet for consideration of the appeal. The Board of Review will have final disposition of any case it has been asked to review.

    The Executive Committee of the AFCA shall serve as a Board of Review, to which a disciplined member may appeal his case. The member making the appeal shall notify the President of his appeal and the President shall then ask the Board of Review to consider the appeal. The Board of Review has final disposition of any appealed case.

    A quorum of the Board of Review shall consist of a majority of its members, and further a majority vote by secret ballot shall suffice with respect to determining the outcome of an appeal. The Board of Review shall, in disposing of an appeal, determine: 1. If there is credible evidence to support the finding of guilt, and 2. a preponderance of the credible evidence sustains the finding of guilt.

  5. The entire proceedings are to be confidential. Exception: The findings of the Ethics Committee and the Board of Review on violations of the Code may be announced to the membership at the annual meeting of the Association. However, names shall not be revealed.

ARTICLE I Responsibilities to Players

  1. In his relationships with players under his care, the coach should always be aware of the tremendous influence he wields, for good or bad. Parents entrust their dearest possession to the coach’s charge; and, the coach, through his own example, must always be sure that the young men who have played under him are finer and more decent men for having done so. The coach should never place the value of a win above that of instilling the highest desirable ideals and character traits in his players. The safety and welfare of his players should always be uppermost in his mind, and they must never be sacrificed for any personal prestige or selfish glory.
  2. In teaching the game of football, the coach must realize that there are certain rules designed to protect the player and provide common standards for determining a winner and loser. Any attempts to circumvent these rules, to take unfair advantage of an opponent, or to teach deliberate unsportsmanlike conduct, have no place in the game of football, nor has any coach guilty of such teaching any right to call himself a coach. The coach should set the example for winning without boasting and losing without bitterness. A coach who conducts himself according to these principles need have no fear of failure, for in the final analysis, the success of a coach can be measured in terms of the respect he has earned from his own players and from his opponents.
  3. Prompt and professional medical attention is a responsibility of the coach. The diagnosis and treatment of injuries is a medical problem; a coach should not involve himself with the diagnosis of any injury. It is important that a solid, independent, and competent medical program of diagnosis and treatment be established and that a coach support such a program in the best interest and well-being of his players.
  4. Under no circumstances should a coach authorize or tolerate the use of illegal or performance enhancing drugs. All medicines used by student-athletes should be under the direction of a physician or other appropriate medical personnel.
  5. A coach should know and understand rules of eligibility and not violate any rules that would jeopardize his institution or players under his direction.
  6. Academics and athletics are a joint effort, each providing benefits to the participants. A coach should encourage the proper time-management skills to his men that will allow them to achieve success both on the playing field and in the classroom. A coach should support the academic endeavors of his players.

ARTICLE II Responsibility to the Institution

  1. The function of the coach is to educate students through participation in the game of football. This primary and basic function must always be upheld.
  2. A coach shall conduct himself so as to maintain the principles, integrity, and dignity of his institution.
  3. A coach should not exert pressure on faculty members to give players consideration they do not deserve.
  4. A coach should maintain a professional and positive relationship with the admissions office. A coach should not exert pressure on the admissions office to admit players who are not qualified.
  5. A coach should discuss his problems with his athletic director and/or faculty chairman in a professional manner and then accept and support the decisions that have been reached.
  6. Official student records and transcripts used for the admissions process should never pass through the coach’s office.
  7. The coach should constantly be alert to see his program is being conducted and promoted properly. The coach should lend his experience and training to the governing body of the school’s athletic program in the solution of football problems. Where differences of opinion arise, and the council overrides the coach’s judgement, discretion should be exercised in airing such differences outside the council meeting.
  8. It is highly important that a coach privately and publicly support the administration in all policies, rules, and regulations regarding football.
  9. In the event a coach is contacted about a position with another institution, he should notify his immediate superior as soon as possible.

ARTICLE III Rules of the Game

  1. The Football Code which appears in the Official Football Rule Book shall be considered an integral part of this Code of Ethics and should be carefully read and observed.
  2. Each coach should be acquainted thoroughly with the rules of the game. He is responsible for having the rules taught to, interpreted for, and executed by his players.
  3. Both the letter and the spirit of the rules must be adhered to by the coaches and their players.
  4. Coaches who seek to gain any advantage by circumvention, disregard, or unwillingness to learn the rules of the game, are unfit for this association. A coach is responsible for the adherence of the rules by all parties directly involved with the team. The integrity of the game rests mainly on the shoulders of the coach; there can be no compromise.
  5. A coach must remember always that it is not the purpose of football to hurt or injure an opponent by legal or illegal methods. Good Sportsmanship: Habit formation is developed on the practice field. Where coaches permit, encourage or condone performance, which is dangerous to an opponent, they are derelict in their responsibility to teach fair play and good sportsmanship. This aspect of coaching must be attacked just as vigorously as the teaching of offense and defense, and to the players it is far more important than all the technical aspects of the game combined. Any coach who fails to stress this point, or who permits, encourages or defends the use of unsportsmanlike tactics shall be considered guilty of the most serious breach of football coaching ethics.

ARTICLE IV Officials

  1. No competitive contest can be played satisfactorily without impartial, competent officials. Officials must have the respect and support of coaches and players. On and off-the-record criticism of officials to players or to the public shall be considered unethical.
  2. Officials Associations. There should be a cooperative relationship between coaches and officials’ associations, with frequent interchange of ideas and suggestions. Coaches should, whenever possible, accept invitations to attend officials’ rules meetings. Similarly, coaches should extend officials invitations to discuss rules interpretations with their squads, and on occasion to officiate at scrimmages, for mutual benefits.
  3. Treatment of Officials. On the day of a game, officials should be treated in a courteous manner. They should be provided with a private room in which to meet and dress for the game. Conferences between coaches and officials shall always be conducted according to procedures established by the governing Conference or Officials Association. In every respect the official Rule Book shall be followed in coach-official relationships, on the field and during and following a game. Any criticisms which the coach may have to make concerning officiating should be made in writing to the office which assigned the official to the game. For a coach to address, or permit anyone on his bench to address, uncomplimentary remarks to any official during the progress of a game, or to indulge in conduct which might incite players or spectators against the officials, is a violation of the rules of the game and must likewise be considered conduct unworthy of a member of the coaching profession.
  4. Use of Movies & Video in Checking Officials. It should be recognized that slow motion study of controversial decisions by officials is far different from on-the-spot decisions which must be made during the course of a game. To show critical plays to sportswriters, sportscasters, alumni and the public; and to purport incompetence by an official as it relates to those controversial plays must be considered unethical conduct.

ARTICLE V Public Relations

  1. Members of the news media should be treated with courtesy, honesty, and respect. Derogatory and misleading statements should be avoided. Direct questions should be answered honestly, or not at all. If good judgement indicates an honest answer would be prejudicial to the best interests of the game, ethical procedure demands that it not be answered. In such instances, “I would rather not discuss at this time” is justifiable.
  2. Coaches should assume the responsibility of teaching their players how to conduct themselves in interviews in the best interests of football and their respective institution.
  3. The Association recommends that the media be admitted to dressing rooms as soon as practicable after games.
  4. A coach should endeavor to keep the personal matters related to the team as private as possible while acknowledging the need to respond to questions from the media. Whenever possible, the coach should refrain from putting undue emphasis on injuries, disciplinary measures, academic difficulties, eligibility matters, and other like issues which might take away from the team or the game.
  5. Coaches should avoid talking in public about unethical recruiting and illegal game tactics.
  6. Any statements that tend to portray football in any light other than being part of the educational process is detrimental to the future of the profession.
  7. Falsifying any physical attributes of a player or team is a bad educational process. These can include, but are not limited to height, weight, speed.
  8. Coaches should not predict game winners.
  9. It shall be unethical for coaches to use alumni, booster, and quarterback club organizations in an attempt to defeat or obstruct institutional athletic controls, or to encourage violation of established rules. It shall be unethical for coaches to make demands, financial or otherwise, upon such groups which are not in keeping with the letter and spirit of existing controls or in any other manner misuse such strength and power in violation of accepted rules and regulations.
  10. Athletic-related endorsements must comply with institutional and national regulations wherever applicable; a coach should refrain from the endorsement of any product which may bring discredit to the traditions of the coaching profession. Endorsement, directly or indirectly, by active members of the association, of alcoholic beverages and/or tobacco products is unethical.
  11. A coach should never use the exposure of the media in any form to address professional problems; rather they should be solved within the profession and/or the association.
  12. Coaches should not be associated in any way with professional gamblers. Because of its association with gambling, coaches should never engage in comments regarding point spreads.


  1. It is unethical under any circumstances to scout any team, by any means whatsoever, except in regularly scheduled games. The head coach shall be held responsible for all scouting. This includes the use of motion pictures and/or video tape.
  2. It is unethical conduct to violate conference rules on the exchange of film/video.
  3. Direct exchange of film/video is urged by the association.
  4. It is unethical to make available to any individual or institution any video or film in which your own team does not appear.

ARTICLE VII Recruiting

  1. All institutional, conference, and national regulatory body rules pertaining to recruiting shall be observed strictly. A head coach must accept total responsibility for the activities of all his assistants even if an assistant is not a member of the association.
  2. It is a breach of ethics to recruit a player enrolled at another school unless properly authorized according to legislation. For those participating institutions, strict observance of the National Letter of Intent provisions are to be followed by all coaches.
  3. A student-athlete should not be recruited during his participation in another sport so that he misses, or is late for, practices and games without the expressed understanding and permission of the student-athlete’s coaches and/or family.
  4. Negative recruiting is a serious breach of ethics by any coach. In discussing the advantages of his institution, the coach must confine his statements to an honest and forthright presentation of the facts. Derogatory and/or slanderous statements about other institutions, its coaches, administrators, or players cannot be accepted. The image of our association can be further enhanced only by coaches who understand and commit their actions to observing this concept.
  5. It is unethical for any coach to make statements to any prospective student which knowingly cannot be fulfilled.
  6. Coaches should not allow outside agencies such as recruiting and/or scouting services to become influential in the recruiting process.

ARTICLE VIII Game Day and Other Responsibilities

  1. It is vitally important a coach’s actions and behavior at all times bring credit to himself, his institution, and the game of football.
  2. Before and after game, rival coaches should meet and exchange friendly greetings.
  3. During the game, coaches should act in a controlled and professional demeanor so as to not make themselves conspicuous; the center of attention should be the game and the players. Coaches should interact with their players in a respectful, non-degrading manner while encouraging them to perform at their highest level. The attitude of the coaches toward officials should be on a respectful, professional, and controlled level of communication.

    A coach must accept the responsibility for the sideline and game behavior of all his players regarding actions towards officials and players and coaches of the opposing team.

  4. After a game, visitors should not be permitted into team dressing rooms until coaches have completed their post-game responsibilities, including a careful check of player injuries.
  5. Coaches should use their influence to upgrade levels of sportsmanship by rooting sections by working closely with cheerleaders and leaders of card sections.
  6. A Coach should make his team aware of all regulations regarding game tickets and specifically any unauthorized selling or scalping.
  7. A coach shall not receive compensation from professional teams for talent scouting of any players. A coach may engage in conversations with professional teams regarding his players under guidelines of legislation, but he is not to negotiate for them, nor receive any compensation.

ARTICLE IX Acceptance of All-Star Game Coaching Assignments and Other All-Star Coaching Honors

The integrity of the coaching profession demands that standards be set and enforced by this association in regard to its members:

  1. Accepting and/or participating in a coaching position, either as a head
    coach or assistant coach for a post-season all-star type game of any kind.
  2. Accepting the honor as a “Coach of the Year” as selected by AFCA members.
  3. Serving as a voter for national ranking.
  4. Producing a team eligible for national ranking.
  5. Serving as a member of an AFCA committee.
  6. Speaking at the AFCA national convention; and/or
  7. Contributing to the Association’s publications.

This association has determined that a damaging effect upon the football coaching profession’s image has occurred in the cases stated above when the coach involved has in fact been responsible for his present institution or prior institution of employment being placed under football probation classified as “major” by the NCAA or similar probation by the NAIA, or probation by its respective conference, institution or other guiding body which results in depriving the school of post-season participation and/or television appearances and/or loss of twenty percent of overall football grants-in-aid.

Therefore, any member whose present institution or prior employer is under such “major” probation (as defined previously) because of violations directly or indirectly attributable to the football coach or those persons under his control and supervision during said probation period:

  1. Shall not accept and/or participate in any post-season all-star coaching assignment (head coach or assistant coach);
  2. Shall not be eligible for any official AFCA Coach of the Year award;
  3. Shall not serve as a member of the coaches voting panel or any other panel which determines weekly football team rankings;
  4. Shall not serve on any AFCA committee;
  5. Shall not be a speaker at the AFCA national convention; and/or
  6. Shall not contribute to any of the Association’s publications, with the following exception:

    A member who has left his previous institution in good standing (i.e. no major probation) and is employed by an institution which has been placed on major probation prior to his arrival is eligible to:

    1. Participate as a coach in all-star games, since he was not responsible for his present employer’s current probationary status and because the team which he serves as coach will not represent the institution in the said all-star game;
    2. Serve on any AFCA committee;
    3. Be a speaker at the AFCA national convention; and/or
    4. Contribute to the Association’s publications. However, a member in this situation will remain ineligible for American Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year honors, since any success his present team enjoys will be due in part because of advantages gained by breaking NCAA regulations before his arrival. Under those same conditions of probation as previously described in paragraph No. 2, the member’s current and/or former team may not be considered for pre-season, post-season or weekly national ranking in polls in which voting is carried out by a head coach or any assistant coach. Any team not on probation is eligible to be ranked by the Coaches Board, regardless of the standing of its head coach.

    It shall be the duty of the member of this organization to refrain from accepting and/or participating in any such positions or awards under those circumstances and to take all steps necessary to decline such assignments or ‘honors’ for him and for his current and/or former team. Failure to adhere to these standards shall be grounds for probation, suspension, or expulsion from this organization.