NIC vs. Whitcomb: There’s more to this story

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Few things are exactly as they initially seem.

You could ask the much-maligned MAGA-capped young man from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky.

Better yet, ask Pat Whitcomb, the recently disgraced and discarded North Idaho College wrestling coach.

Whitcomb went down on two levels. First, he was fired this month from a job he loved, one that spanned several decades going back to his spectacular career as an NIC grappler and continuing through 22 years as he put championship-caliber young men on the mats season after season.

Whitcomb was also convicted in the court of public opinion. When North Idaho College officials declared they had found “academic integrity” violations in the athletic department and Whitcomb was the only head coach given his walking papers, what was the public to conclude? Given zero specifics from the college, logical assumptions ran the range of student athletes cheating on exams to not attending classes, all with the tacit approval of the head coach and his top assistant. What else could it be?

Well, as it turns out, the kid with the MAGA hat probably didn’t do a darned thing wrong, and the guy whose pride in his community college and his wrestling program says his only violation was standing up to administration’s failure to uphold federal laws protecting women and people with disabilities. Pat Whitcomb attests that his cause is righteous and he’s determined to pin NIC’s bureaucratic perps with the truth.

This will take some time to work out, maybe through NIC’s board of trustees or in a court of law. But there are at least two reasons to listen closely when Whitcomb speaks.

First is that he’s a known quantity in our community. Many citizens have known Pat for years and will vouch ardently for his character. When NIC’s academic integrity missile struck, its casualties included people well outside Pat Whitcomb’s house.

The other thing is that NIC offered to pay Whitcomb for his silence, the former coach says. This appears not to be an isolated incident. The Press has been made aware of several other college employees who were allegedly forced out recently but, unlike Whitcomb, they are said to have accepted money and/or benefits on the condition they not discuss details of their departure.

Do you remember back in 2014, when The Press uncovered Kootenai County’s practice of quietly paying settlements in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to former employees? While that example and this one might be considerably different, the routine of rewarding ex-anythings for their silence does little to instill confidence among the taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill.

A college spokesperson said, “If Mr. Whitcomb gives written consent, we will gladly disclose personnel information that is otherwise protected under Idaho law as it specifically relates to him. He has not given us that consent.”

We urge Pat to give his consent and share the information with the public.

In other words, let’s see the whole video before deciding who did what to whom.

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