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Vanderbilt DBs coach Dan Jackson retains his job (for now)

Well, he’s not getting fired with cause.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Tying up one final loose end from Vanderbilt’s 2022 football season, remember on the eve of the South Carolina game when the defensive backs coach posted dumb shit on Facebook, there was an uproar, he coached the South Carolina game anyway, and then Vanderbilt announced he was stepping away for a bit?

Well, Vanderbilt provided an update today, and it turns out that the Equal Opportunity and Access office has completed its review and he’s still on the coaching staff.

Relevant portion of the statement from Athletic Director Candice Lee:

I think it is worth providing context, as this issue is significantly more nuanced than some accounts you may have seen. Coach Jackson’s comments were posted from his personal Facebook page in response to a friend’s post. Unaware of the recent racist and antisemitic remarks by rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, Coach Jackson used him as an example to show support for the original post’s demand for free expression and equality in the treatment of Black and white public figures. When learning about the nature and content of Ye’s remarks, Coach Jackson realized that his post had been misguided and uninformed and understood why his comment had caused harm. EOA determined that while Coach Jackson’s comments were hurtful and lacked critical context, they were not discriminatory nor intended to target any group and did not violate Vanderbilt’s anti-harassment policy. The comments did, however, violate the Electronic Communications and Information Technology Resources policy for staff, which prohibits “unprofessional communication that could negatively impact Vanderbilt’s reputation or interfere with Vanderbilt’s core mission.”

Okay. I’m not one to determine what Dan Jackson did or didn’t know about what Kanye West had been saying in the month or so prior to November 4, when the Facebook comment surfaced (it’s worth noting that if anything, Kanye’s comments have somehow gotten even worse since then, like “even Alex Jones thinks this is too much” worse), so I’ll hold off on judgment on that part. What I do realize here, though, is that having a vague understanding of how employment and contract law works (or at least as much as I know from sitting through law school classes at Vanderbilt 15 or so years ago, and then never actually using any of that in my subsequent career), all of this roughly translates to: “he’s under contract, and we don’t have enough to terminate him with cause.”

Which gets me to the next part of this: at no point in this statement was it indicated that Jackson will be coaching the defensive backs in 2023. That decision may or may not have already been made, but decisions about whether assistant coaches should be retained or dismissed for performance reasons are Clark Lea’s, not the Equal Opportunity and Access office’s.