The relationship between coaches and athletes is always fascinating. The best coaches take teams and individuals to new levels and maximize their potential. But some coaches exploit or even abuse their athletes. Others simply make the wrong decision and cost their charges at key points.
Today, we’ll look at 35 times that coaches failed their athletes. There are plenty of bad choices and awful people on this list. Many of these coaches remain active and rehabilitated their images. Others never recovered and won’t work in sports again. Check out the list via Bleacher Report.
35. Urban Meyer
Meyer had a successful record as a college coach but it comes with an asterisk. He is one of the most polarizing figures in football because of his player treatment. Meyer helped the Florida Gators achieve glory but his players behaved appallingly away from the field (via Sports Illustrated).
Controversy also followed him to the Ohio Buckeyes. He left that job with a cloud over his head after a spousal abuse scandal. Then he went to the NFL with the Jaguars. He failed his athletes because he treated them like children and stunted Trevor Lawrence’s development. He also allegedly kicked his kicker and skipped a team flight after a loss only to get caught dancing with a woman who was not his wife. A disastrous tenure in the NFL that has been called the worst professional coaching stint in football history.
Valentina Shevchenko is one of the most fearsome female fighters ever. Her technical ability is astounding as she brutally dissects her opponents. Brazil’s Priscila Cachoeira discovered this the hard way when she was on the wrong end of a brutal beating from the champion (via Sportskeeda).
However, her coaches failed her because they should have thrown in the towel. It became clear that she had no chance of defeating Shevchenko and the referee stopped the fight late. Shevchenko outstruck her 95-2 in a harrowing one-sided beatdown. Cachoeira was tough but this took years off her career and it could have been prevented by her corner.
Sometimes the tide turns in a game. That’s when athletes depend on their coaches to change their tactics and make something happen. However, Shanahan failed to do this when he worked for the Falcons. The former offensive coordinator called plays but made massive mistakes (via USA Today).
Atlanta allowed the Patriots to return from a record deficit and lost the game. Shanahan justifiably received a lot of criticism and acknowledged his mistakes. He agreed that his play calling in the final minutes proved costly. He failed his athletes but at least he’s not quite as bad a person like others on this list.
Coaches’ foremost duty is to protect their athletes but Fabia failed miserably. It’s a stretch to even call him a coach because his methods were so bad. He led UFC legend Diego Sanchez down a dark path before the latter finally fired him. Fabia notoriously kicked and punched his student like a heavy bag.
He also gave him bizarre advice and attempted to use Sanchez’s profile to increase his platform. The best coaches support their athletes and allow their success to speak for themselves. But Fabia was a grim human being with a horrible track record. He manipulated a vulnerable human being (via MMA Fighting).
McCracken is one of the UK’s most respected boxing coaches. After leading Team GB’s boxing team to glory in London in 2012, he became Anthony Joshua’s head trainer. Joshua became a feared opponent but McCracken failed him on a couple of occasions (via DAZN).
The trainer’s bizarre gameplans against Andy Ruiz and Oleksandr Usyk cost him dearly. Joshua failed to make use of his physical advantages in either of those fights. It appears as though McCracken is more compatible with amateur athletes than top-level pros. It will remain to be seen if McCracken remains training truly elite professional boxers in the fore
Mourinho is an iconic figure but he also polarizes the masses. The Portuguese head coach won titles in every country he coached. But he’s also a master of the dark arts and has committed some shameful acts. One of the worst was his appalling treatment of Luke Shaw (via Mirror).
There’s no denying that he bullied the Manchester United defender. He shamed the English star for his weight and also emotionally abused him throughout his career. Mourinho has done this to athletes in every team he worked with but this was an extreme case.
Bliss failed his athletes but somehow contrived to get college coaching jobs. His exploits at Baylor remain notorious because he ridiculously broke the rules. He made tuition payments for players which is blatantly illegal. But Bliss didn’t care because all he wanted were good results.
Furthermore, he covered up drug test results as his team had a great time smoking and drinking. Maybe his athletes loved him but he didn’t do them any favors in the long term. Allowing them to openly use recreational drugs just isn’t the path a coach should put his players on as young adults. In 2003, Baylor fired him and became the most notorious program in the NCAA (via USA Today Sports).
Cooper-Dyke is a women’s basketball legend and a successful former head coach. However, we can’t have anything good in this world because she’s allegedly a terrible person. Her athletes claim that she verbally abused them and degraded them. These accusations rocked the basketball world.
Allegedly, she body-shamed her athletes and also made inappropriate sexual references. Texas Southern even implemented a limited contact rule between the coach and her players. It’s incredibly disappointing because of her status in the sport as a woman (via FOX News).
Rice was a decent college player but he never made it to the NBA. Instead, he moved into the world of coaching and worked as an assistant with several schools. After a spell as Robert Morris’s head coach, he moved to Rutgers and attracted national attention (via 247 Sports).
But this wasn’t for good reasons because he abused his athletes. ESPN released footage of Rice hurling basketballs at his players’ heads. He also verbally and physically abused them in different ways. Rutgers fired him because he betrayed and bullied his athletes.
F.C. Cincinnati is one of MLS’s newest franchises. They made their debut in 2019 and developed a strong following in the city. However, they also attracted a scandal because of their former coach, Jans. The Dutch soccer manager sang a song with a racial slur in the locker room.
Players allegedly told Jans that his song was inappropriate because of racial relations in the U.S. However, this wasn’t a case of a cultural misunderstanding. Jans also joked about slavery when the team visited a memorial in Washington. In sum, he’s a vile excuse for a human being (via The Guardian).
Graham had a central role in the BALCO Scandal because he became a whistleblower. He sold out a fellow coach because they were rivals. But then the tables turned and the investigation discovered that he also gave drugs to his athletes. This cost several high-profile figures including Marion Jones.
The IOC banned him for life because he was one of the biggest cheaters on the planet. Graham also served a year of house arrest because he lied to a court. The Jamaican wasn’t just an immoral coach. He was also an idiot because his plan backfired badly (via Deseret). In the end, it cost him his career and rightfully so.
Gerrard became a Rangers icon when he guided the team to a Scottish Premiership victory in 2021. However, he ran out on his players the following year when Aston Villa offered him a job. Rangers suffered a downturn in form after losing several athletes to injury.
It became clear that they wouldn’t achieve the success of the previous season. Gerrard furthered his career by joining the Premier League team. He ruthlessly abandoned Rangers before they tarnished his career. It was selfish but that’s the life of a soccer head coach (via Daily Record).
Bernice Wilson was a rising star on the UK track scene. She represented her country on the international track scene before a pair of suspensions ended her career. Dr. Skafidis was the main reason why she tested positive because he emotionally manipulated her.
First, they became involved in a romantic relationship. Then, Skafidis influenced her into taking steroids. He said that his medical experience meant that nobody would catch her. But that’s not what happened as he received a lifetime ban from the sport (via Lincolnshire World). That affected him but the true damage was what he did to her career.
Hinch isn’t on this list because he led his players astray. However, he failed to prevent them from cheating in one of MLB’s most notorious scandals. Their sign-stealing scheme was a major story because they cheated their way to a World Series victory (via FOX News).
In the end, the Astros scapegoated Hinch and G.M. Jeff Luhnow. Both men claimed that they played no role in the cheating. But Hinch was aware of it and said he should have done more to stop it. He had the power to take a moral stand but he failed to do so. The Astros’ World Series title is and will forever be tainted because of his willingness to overlook what was happening.
MMA is a very tough sport that requires intense mental fortitude. However, Max Rohskopf had a tough night against Austin Hubbard in 2020. The UFC rookie received a one-sided beating and couldn’t handle it. He went back to his corner at the end of the second round and told them he had enough.
But his coach Robert Drysdale refused to accept this. He forced Rohskopf to go back out and finish the bout. This attracted a lot of criticism and an NAC investigation because he didn’t protect his fighter. Athletes depend on their coaches but Drysdale didn’t get the message (via MMA Fighting). It just wasn’t a great look for a coach in a sport where athletes already absorb a ton of mental and physical damage.
A coach should set an example for his athletes. But Gruden betrayed them by being a horrible excuse of a human being. An investigation into Washington’s dirty dealings revealed the truth about the Raiders’ coach. He exchanged dozens of emails with Washington GM Bruce Allen.
Gruden used appalling and derogatory language in the emails. He made homophobic references to different athletes and exchanged topless pictures of cheerleaders. It was deplorable and ultimately cost him his job. Las Vegas fired him because he made his position untenable (via Sporting News).
The UFC raised eyebrows when they signed Dean Barry. The Irish fighter had an inexperienced record of just 4-1 before he signed the contract. Then, the promotion made him fight two weight classes above his usual class. He lost his only bout by disqualification due to an eye poke.
However, Barry’s coaches and management let him down badly. He wasn’t ready to fight on the biggest stage and he panicked in front of the world. It was a pity because he has talent but it was too much too soon. The UFC cut him after the defeat and left him to fend for himself (via RTE). Hopefully he can fight back and get another shot on the big stage because his coaches failed him this time around.
The dynamic between a male coach and female athletes is a complex one. However, Newbauer didn’t get the message when he took the Florida Gators’ job. He coached their women’s basketball team and behaved like a piece of garbage. The coach abused his staff as well as his athletes.
Allegedly he threw basketballs at individuals and regularly made racist comments. He also belittled people daily and abused his position as a mentor. It’s safe to say that he was everything that a coach shouldn’t be. In the end, he stained his record forever (via Ocala Gazette).
Guardiola is one of the greatest soccer managers in history. However, the Man City coach has an appalling track record in the Champion’s League with his current team. He won the trophy with Barcelona but failed to replicate this success in the U.K (via ESPN).
That’s because Guardiola always makes the wrong choices and overthinks. He makes illogical team selections because he’s trying to be too clever. In 2022, he substituted his best player, Kevin De Bruyne, and lost control of the tie against Real Madrid. He’s a brilliant coach but these losses are his fault. Maybe he would fare better if he backed his players more.
Ben Johnson became a Canadian hero when he won gold in 1988. The sprinter broke the world record on his way to glory and global fame. However, the world came crashing down around him when he failed drug tests. Suddenly, he was a figure of notoriety.
His coach, Francis, introduced him to steroids for the first time. Francis had a pernicious influence on his athletes and encouraged them to take PEDs. In the end, it cost everybody dearly because the truth emerged. Francis died in 2010 as a disgraced figure (via The Guardian).
Nobody knew who Kris Moutinho was before he stepped up to fight Sean O’Malley at UFC 264. In the end, he suffered a brutal beating at the hands of “Sugar.” His toughness was amazing but arguably he showed too much heart for his good. His coaches failed to protect him and may have harmed his long-term health.
Moutinho absorbed 230 significant strikes against O’Malley while landing just 70 of his won. He came forward like a zombie but O’Malley overmatched him. This was a strange fight to watch because fans saw his brain cells depleting before their eyes (via MMA Junkie).
Karolyi was the coach from Hell. The Hungarian led the U.S. and Romanian gymnastics teams at different points in his career. His heyday was in 1976 and 1980 when he coached the latter team to glory. However, appalling details emerged of how he treated his athletes.
He allegedly starved his athletes, beat them, and denied them medical treatment. Some of the gymnasts even ate toothpaste before they went to bed. Karolyi had strong links to Larry Nasser, the reviled doctor who was convicted of a long and disgusting pattern of sexual abuse. He also coached U.S. star Mary Lou Retton (via Fox News).
Max Holloway is one of the best UFC featherweights in history. He fought Calvin Kattar in 2021 in one of the most one-sided fights ever. Many people thought that Kattar would present Holloway with difficulties. In the end, “Blessed” landed over 400 strikes as he dominated his fellow top featherweight.
After the fight, Kattar’s coaches received a lot of criticism from the media. They failed to stop the fight and protect their fighter. Combat sports athletes rarely give up so it’s up to the coaches to protect them. But Tyson Chartier and his team failed Kattar on that day (via B.J.Penn.com). Thankfully he has rebounded well ever since and picked up a bloody win of his own after taking the better part of a year off.
Doyle began coaching college football in the nineties in strength and conditioning. He worked with the Iowa Hawkeyes before his actions cost him his job. Doyle used racially charged language toward his athletes as he threatened to send them back to the ghetto (via Bleacher Report).
Furthermore, he was critical of how black players styled their hair. Iowa fired him because this was unacceptable in the 21st century. But Urban Meyer thought that he was a perfect fit for the Jaguars. Somehow he made it through vetting but the media picked up on his unsavory track record of alleged racism. He quit after a day on the job.
One of the world’s most famous running coaches, Salazar influenced a bevy of athletes. These included British long-distance superstar Mo Farah and other Olympic stars. But he became embroiled in a major scandal in 2019. It emerged that he encouraged doping in multiple athletes.
Then things became worse when sexual misconduct accusations proved to be true. He received a lifetime ban from the sport because of his horrendous abuses. Salazar also inadvertently tarnished the names of some big stars by association (via Daily Camera).
Sampson coached the England Women’s soccer team for four years. But his tenure ended in disgrace after a disciplinary hearing. A pair of England players accused Sampson of using inappropriate language and racially abusing them. Sampson’s position became untenable.
However, it became messy when he brought a case of unfair dismissal against England. Sampson betrayed his athletes but he somehow earned a settlement from the team. He walked away from women’s soccer and focused on coaching men (via Daily Mail).
Ostapchuk represented Belarus in the 2012 Olympics in London. Initially, she won the gold medal for shot-put but then the IOC stripped her. She failed a pair of drug tests and that was the end of her dream. But the worst part was that her coach played a vile role in this incident (via Sydney Morning Herald).
He dusted her food with anabolic steroids without her knowing. Ostapchuk didn’t know that there was anything wrong but she ingested banned substances. It’s a shameful thing to do because the coach ruined her reputation. He should have protected his athlete but he betrayed her in one of the worst ways possible.
Former UFC women’s strawweight Rose Namajunas fought Carla Esparza at UFC 274 in a strawweight title fight. She lost her belt after one of the most boring defenses in MMA history. This fight was incredibly uneventful as neither fighter produced anything. Namajunas avoided contact as Esparza tried to chase her around the cage (via MMA Fighting).
Her long-term partner Barry attracted a lot of criticism after the fight. He told her she was doing the right thing because the crowd was booing. Meanwhile, he gave her mixed messages that went against head coach Trevor Wittman’s advice. It was unprofessional and cost his girlfriend her title. After the fight, fan favorite Namajunas seemed to go from a UFC darling to a heel overnight with just one bad fight. Her coaches undoubtedly failed her but it also shows the fickle nature of MMA as whole. You’re only as good as your recent fight, at least in the eyes of the so-called ‘fans.’
In 2022, a shocking soccer scandal emerged. Crawley Town sacked their head coach because of his disgraceful behavior toward non-white athletes. He introduced a segregated locker room because he didn’t want Asian and Black players to mix with white stars.
Yems also used racist and derogatory language toward these players. Seven players reported his misconduct and three investigations opened into his behavior. Yems had no shame because he instantly applied for jobs after Crawley Town fired him (via CNN).
Peyton Manning recommended his former offensive coordinator Gase to the New York Jets but it ended badly. He was one of the worst head coaches in their history. The self-professed quarterback guru also ruined Sam Darnold’s prospects of becoming a franchise QB. It was a complete shambles (via Fansided).
Gase coached Darnold badly and left him badly exposed throughout his tenure. It’s easy to forget that Darnold was very young when he joined the Jets. For context, Cincinnati Bengals passer Joe Burrow was older as a rookie than Darnold was in his first year. But Gase ruined his confidence and sent him on a downward spiral.
Valieva was a strong gold medal favorite heading into the women’s free skate at the Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022. Then a drug test scandal plagued her seemingly unstoppable run to the top of the figure skating world. However, she fell well short of expectations when she finished fourth overall. It was disappointing for the 15-year-old because she failed in front of the world.
Then, her coaches savagely rebuked her live on television. This stunned viewers because they spoke to the vulnerable young woman horribly. The distraught athlete had no response to their criticism and verbal abuse. It was harrowing to witness (via Yahoo! Sports). She failed a drug test at the end of 2021 in a scene that only furthered the dark cloud hanging over the entire Russian Olympic team. But her team and coaches seemingly never had her back and she became a used and abused example of how poorly Russian athletes were treated before they were made into scapegoats.
Kavanagh is one of the most high-profile MMA trainers on the planet because he coaches Conor McGregor, who is the biggest star in mixed martial arts history. However, he attracted criticism in recent years because of his pupil’s downward spiral. Former UFC champion Michael Bisping even called for McGregor to fire his long-serving coach.
That’s because critics see Kavanagh as a ‘yes man’ who doesn’t stand up to McGregor. McGregor’s wrestling hasn’t improved over the past few years. Meanwhile, he changed from a karate stance to a more conventional boxing style. This saw a decline in results (via Insider). The icing on the cake may have been when Kavanagh claimed McGregor had Dustin Poirier right where they wanted him early in their trilogy fight in July 2021 when in reality, McGregor was getting dominated with ground and pound on the mat.
Lopez Sr. won a lot of praise when his son defeated the legendary Vasily Lomachenko. However, he suffered a shock defeat to George Kambosos in 2021. Kambosos knocked Lopez down early and dominated the fight. But Lopez Sr. refused to accept the result.
He showed a lack of class as he said that everybody knew that his son won the fight. This was delusional and disrespectful. It also didn’t help his son because he made Lopez Jr. appear arrogant in defeat. Coaches should protect their athletes and instill humility (via SBNation).
Olympic judo medalist Ronda Rousey became a superstar as she dominated the UFC women’s bantamweight division. Her coach, Taverdyan, took a lot of credit for her success. But he failed to help her evolve and adapt to different fighting styles. He also encouraged her to throw her hands in a fatal error (via Sportskeeda).
She fought Holly Holm in a title defense that went badly wrong. Holm lit her up on the feet in an electric display. But Taverdyan infamously told Rousey that she was doing well and encouraged her to box. Remember, Rousey was an Olympic medal-winning judoka. After the fight, Rousey never won in the UFC again and much of that blame was placed on Tarverdyan.
First, we acknowledge that Petrino took over the Falcons at a difficult time. Atlanta lost their star quarterback Michael Vick after news broke of his dogfighting scandal. This completely derailed their season but it also won Petrino a grace period (via The Spun).
Despite his bad results, his job remained relatively safe. But he continued to flirt with the Arkansas job, despite denying this when the media asked him about links. Finally, he quit the Falcons and joined the Razorbacks. He said goodbye to his athletes by leaving notes in their lockers.