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Middle Tennessee defends Brent Stockstill hiring against nepotism charges

Middle Tennessee has defended its hiring of Brent Stockstill, son of head coach Rick Stockstill, as the program's wide receivers coach against charges from a local news organization that MTSU violated state nepotism law.

Nashville's CBS affiliate investigated the program for an alleged violation of statute 8-31-103, which states, “no state employees who are relatives shall be placed within the same direct line of supervision ... of another relative.”

To circumvent the law, Middle Tennessee says Brent reports to AD Chris Massaro, not his boss/father.

"He was by far and away the best candidate of the Zoom interviews that I watched," Massaro told the station. "Are we hiring him because his last name is Stockstill? My answer to that is no. Then if you don't hire him is it because his last name is Stockstill?"

Middle Tennessee defended the hiring by pointing to the litany of examples of coaches hiring family members in college athletics -- including 18 recent ones in the state of Tennessee alone.

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Middle Tennessee's list of precedent is at once exculpatory (of this particular hire) and an indictment (of the entire system).

Coaching hires in college sports tend to operate on two basic principles, which don't often contradict but sometimes can:

1) Coaching is a meritocracy where the best candidate gets the job, period. The stakes are too high otherwise.
2) Coaching is a relationship business. Head coaches want to hire trustworthy and loyal assistants. 

On the micro, it's entirely believable Brent Stockstill was the best candidate for the job. He only recently completed his career as a record-setting quarterback for the Blue Raiders, and as a guy who literally grew up in the system, no one knows the program's culture and the head coach's expectations better than him. His hiring is 100 percent justifiable on those grounds. (After completing his playing career in 2018, Brent Stockstill spent 2018 and '19 on the FAU and South Florida support staffs before returning to Middle as wide receivers coach earlier this year.)

As Massaro alluded above, it almost would've been insane not to hire him. Brent undeniably had an unfair advantage to the Middle Tennessee wide receivers job, but it's also hard to imagine a candidate for this particular job better than him.

But on the macro, it's easy to see how a system perpetuates itself when the people in power consistently bestow jobs to people in their inner circle. Can coaching really be inclusive to all candidates of every background -- a true meritocracy -- if it dudes-hiring-family-members is an accepted part of the culture?

I don't have that answer. I'm not sure anybody does.