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Highly Improper

Gov. Justice wrong to try to oust Holliday

Billionaire businessman Jim Justice had every right to lobby Marshall University to make changes in its football program. Governor Jim Justice does not.

It is being reported Justice pressured Marshall officials to fire head football coach Doc Holliday and replace him with former coach Bobby Pruett, who is both a friend and political supporter of the governor. Justice’s attempts to get the change made occurred both before and after he became governor and involved both Marshall President Jerome Gilbert and other university officials, according to published reports.

There is nothing wrong with private citizens making their feelings about college sports known. Big donors do it all the time. Their financial clout sometimes is persuasive to college and university officials.

But public officials who have power over institutions of higher learning are different. In Justice’s case, he can influence state funding for Marshall. His line-item veto authority over the budget is just part of his clout. That makes it highly improper for him to pressure officials at Marshall or any other state institution of higher learning about hiring and firing of coaches.

This is not the first time such inappropriate behavior has occurred. There have been other situations in which state officials attempted, sometimes successfully, to influence athletic department decisions at state schools. No doubt there have been cases that, because they were handled discreetly, have never come to light.

That does not make Justice’s actions acceptable. Decisions on the Thundering Herd football team should be made on the Marshall campus, not in the governor’s office

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