Late coaching changes upset new recruits

Published 10:59 pm Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Associated Press


As college football moves toward an early signing period for recruits, some of this year’s signees learned no matter when you sign that national letter of intent, situations can change the very next day.

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A handful of assistant coaches at high-profile programs such as Ohio State and Texas changed jobs less than 24 hours after Wednesday’s national signing day, leaving behind the players they recruited.

In some cases, the teenagers who were won over did not take the news well.

Mike Weber, a running back from Detroit who signed with Ohio State, tweeted “I’m hurt as hell” after it was announced Thursday that Buckeyes running backs coach Stan Drayton was leaving for the Chicago Bears.

Du’Vonta Lampkin, a defensive lineman from Houston who signed with Texas, tweeted on Friday “Guess I was lied to my face” and “Really? 2 days after signing day” after it was announced Longhorns defensive line coach Chris Rumph was leaving for Florida.

With early signing period in December coming as soon as this year, the scenario that led to those hard feelings could become more common.

The Collegiate Commissioners Association governs the national letter of intent, which binds a recruit to a school. After years of talk about an early signing period, a committee led by Mid-American Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher recommended last month a three-day early signing period for football, starting on Dec. 16. Late December through January is prime time for coaches to change jobs in college football.

“It is a legitimate issue,” Steinbrecher said of the effect coaching changes have on recruits, “but I think both parties have to go into it with their eyes wide open.”

The CCA, made up of the commissioners of 32 Division I conferences, will vote on the early signing date proposal in June. A majority of coaches are in favor of an early signing period. Steinbrecher said data studied by the committee shows more than 80 percent of football recruits commit before or during their senior seasons and more than 90 percent of those players sign with the schools to which they verbally committed.

Breaking a national letter of intent to go to another school costs a player a year of eligibility. There is a waiver and appeal process that can allow a player to get out of the commitment without penalty.

If a player believed he was misled during recruiting by a coach who knew he was leaving for another job that could make a compelling case to the National Letter of Intent Appeals Committee.

Steinbrecher said there has been no discussion about changing the letter to allow for players to break the commitment because of coaching changes,

“It’s a two-way street here. Does that mean if a coach leaves that a school is released from its obligations to a player as well?” Steinbrecher said.

However, if an early signing period is implemented, how it effects recruiting will be examined closely and the change will be readdressed after two years, Steinbrecher.

“Because until you live it, I don’t know if you know all the intended or unintended consequences,” he said.

Some skeptics of the early signing period say it is more benefit to coaches than players, who could be pressured to make decisions before they are ready. Or before they know for sure if that coach they have connected with will still be on campus when they arrive.

“The very simple answer is if you have a concern maybe you should be waiting to that later period,” Steinbrecher said.