Tonight’s move by Lane Kiffin, leaving the University of Tennessee as head football coach after just one year to assume the same role at USC, is just the latest high-profile example of what I believe is one of the most unfair NCAA rules: Coaches can come and go as they please, while players who want to switch schools have to sit out a full season in most cases.
The head coach is a major component when a player chooses which school to attend. How can any recruit take any coach seriously anymore? Is there any piece of paper more meaningless than a coach’s contract with a university? The coach is supposed to be a leader and, in many cases, a father figure to these players, yet there’s no guarantee they won’t vaporize at the drop of a hat the moment a “better” job comes along.
I understand the NCAA is concerned about illegal contact of players by people associated with other schools, which is likely the main reason why transferring is not easy for players. But it’s thoroughly unfair that someone who sat in the player’s living room and promised him and his family four years’ worth of leadership and guidance can just walk away from that promise without the slightest bit of a penalty.
And while the NCAA is at it, the fact that coaches are allowed to negotiate with other schools while their current schools’ seasons are still ongoing is truly a sick joke. By no means am I going to claim that Cincinnati would have beaten Florida in the Sugar Bowl earlier this month if Brian Kelly was still the head coach of the Bearcats, but I’d like to think the score would have been a lot closer than 51-24 if the team didn’t have to deal with the distraction of losing their head coach while preparing for what was likely the biggest game in school history. I understand schools want to fill their coaching vacancies as quickly as possible, but if their candidates are still preparing for games, no contact should be allowed, period.
If the NCAA is leery about loosening its restrictions on players, that’s understandable, but coaches should have some accountability, too, and not just enjoy the freedom to skip from job to job as they please. I understand that players are getting full scholarships and (theoretically, anyway) college educations, but they should also receive a good, honest effort from the people who recruited them.
I hope USC’s players for next season don’t get too comfortable with Lane Kiffin. Who knows how long he’ll stay there? What a joke.