Last week, Georgetown University hired former Hoyas star Patrick Ewing as the school’s head basketball coach, replacing John Thompson III who accumulated a 278-151 record in thirteen seasons. Ewing, who recently served as the associate head coach for the Charlotte Hornets, is the seventh head coach in Georgetown basketball history.[1]

Interestingly enough, John Thompson, Jr., who coached Ewing and was the program’s figurehead, and arguably the face of the university’s athletics, from 1972 to 1999, was eventually succeeded by his son, Thompson III, in 2004.[2]  Thus, the Thompson’s have been in charge of the Hoyas’ basketball program for forty out of the last forty-five years.

While you would be hard pressed to find a Georgetown alum or fan to quarrel at the hire — after all, Ewing led the program to its first and only national championship title in 1984, was named the national player of the year the following the year, and may arguably the program’s G.O.A.T. — others are more skeptical.

Mainly, Ewing holds zero college basketball coaching experience. In turn, he has not dealt with the rigors of recruiting, among other important matters that are integral to the college game. However, in my opinion Georgetown did not necessarily help the situation by, in a way, controlling who he can and cannot retain from Thompson III’s coaching staff.

Ewing’s son, Patrick Ewing Jr., served on Thompson’s staff as the director of basketball operations, a position he held since August 2015.[3]  He also was a member of the Hoyas’ program from 2005 to 2008, but only played two full seasons after NCAA transfer rules forced Ewing Jr. to sit out for the 2005-06 season after transferring from Indiana University.

What’s Nepotism?

The anti-nepotism statute is codified as 5 U.S.C. § 3110, and more specifically § 3110(b).[4]   However, you will not find any mention of nepotism in the NCAA Manual. In fact, Ewing said that, plain and simple, “it’s a Georgetown thing.”[5]   As such, two previous incidents highlight how Georgetown holds its employees to a higher standard.

First, Iowa’s hire of Brian Ferentz, Kirk’s Ferentz’s son, initially raised some red flags.[6] (Kirk is the Hawkeyes’ head football coach.) In March 2012, The Associated Press released documents that, among other matters, established the following:

Brian Ferentz was culled from a pool of more than 100 candidates for the Iowa opening and, based on experience, was given an annual salary more than $15,000 greater than another assistant football coach hired at the same time. Kirk Ferentz was a search committee member for both positions, according to the documents.[7]

Additionally, in December 2011, University of Arkansas vice chancellor and director of athletics Jeff Long offered the position of the football program’s offensive coordinator to Paul Petrino; Bobby Petrino, Paul’s brother, served as the head football coach during this time. An excerpt from the contract read as follows:

To assure compliance with the University’s policies regarding nepotism (Board Policy 410.1), we will establish the following procedures for your employment. Your position will report directly to me, and I will be responsible for reviewing your performance annually, and for making any decisions to retain, promote, or adjust your salary.[8]

Nepotism is a non-issue in the NFL

The National Football League breeds countless examples of father-son coaching duos that would violate the traditional nepotism clause. Currently of the NFL head coach coaches, Bill Belichick’s son, Steve, is a coaching assistant with the New England Patriots; Marvin Lewis’ son, Marcus, serves as a defensive assistant for the Cincinnati Bengals; Andy Reid’s son, Britt, is an assistant defensive line coach with the Kansas City Chiefs; Mike Zimmer’s son, Adam, works as a linebackers coach for the Minnesota Vikings; and Nate and Brennan Carroll, sons of Pete Carroll, are the assistant wide receivers coach and assistant offensive line coach, respectively, for the Seattle Seahawks.[9]


[1] Patrick Ewing Named Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Georgetown, (Apr. 3, 2017).

[2] A.J. Perez, Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing can’t hire son, cites school’s nepotism rule, USA TODAY Sports (Apr. 5, 2017, 10:55 AM).

[3] Id.

[4] See 5 U.S.C. § 3110 (2011).

[5] Perez, supra note 2.

[6] Paul Steinbach, Athletic Departments Navigate Nepotism Policy, Athletic Business (Apr. 2012),; Associated Press, Brian Ferentz hired from pool of 102, (Mar. 30, 2012),

[7] Id.

[8] Steinbach, supra note 6.

[9] Couch Slouch, The Nepotism Football League, Wash. Post (Sept. 27, 2015).