PSU & Syracuse Sexual Abuse Scandals Top 2011 Crisis

A new nationwide poll of business executives indicates the alleged sexual abuse scandals involving coaches at two prominent eastern universities topped the list of 2011 corporate crises. The dishonor within the Penn State and Syracuse University athletic departments received 13.16 percent of the 266 responses to earn the top spot in a poll co-sponsored by the Institute for Crisis Management (ICM) and Evolving World Communications (EWC).

“The initial crisis event is often made worse by the delay in properly managing it and talking about it,” according to ICM Senior Consultant Larry Smith. “In both university events, it would have been far better to take the “hit” when officials first learned of the charges, and get it over with, than add to the negative public perception of a cover-up.”

“From the standpoint of reputation management, the question exists where the public places the blame. Is it tilted toward the alleged actions of the coaches or the people protecting the educational institutions,” said Sean Clancy, managing director of EWC. “Whether the impact is felt most in the school’s fundraising efforts, student recruitment, or faculty retention, the likelihood is negative sentiment could linger for a generation before either school regains the reputation they possessed on October 1, 2011.”

The remaining Top Five crises were:

3. (Tie) TEPCO’s crisis management and communications strategy following the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear radiation release and Bank of America’s plan to charge debit card fees (12.41%)

4. (Tie) News Corp. phone hacking scandal and General Electric receiving $3.2 billion tax benefit while paying zero taxes (11.28%)

5. Netflix’s pricing scheme and company rebranding snafu (10.53%)

The high tech industry produced the lowest number of responses as the Yahoo Board of Directors firing CEO Carol Bartz during a phone conversation netted 2.63% and HP suing ex-CEO Mark Hurd for taking a new job with Oracle Corp. finished last at 1.88%

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