Tyshawn Taylor just wanted to play for the coach who recruited him at the college he signed with.
The high school basketball star from St. Anthony High School in Jersey City (N.J.) originally signed with Marquette University in October after being recruited for months by Golden Eagles’ coach Tom Crean. However, Crean left Marquette on April 1 for a head coaching position at Indiana vacated by Kelvin Sampson.
Shortly after, reports suggested Taylor was planning on asking for a release from his letter of intent as a result of Crean's departure.
Taylor met April 11 with new head coach Brent “Buzz” Williams – a Marquette assistant who was part of Taylor’s recruitment and was promoted to the head coaching position. After Marquette received the release request on April 17, it officially released Taylor from his letter-of-intent on the same day. However, some people still were not happy. At the time, legendary St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley said to Adam Zagoria of The Herald News (N.J.): “It’s unacceptable but it’s one of the things wrong with college basketball, that they would hold a kid for this long when there's such uncertainty.” Taylor eventually signed with Kansas University.
Although the issue was resolved in a timely manner, the aforementioned scenario is a growing problem in college basketball. In short, the Tyshawn Taylor saga is not unusual and happens at various colleges around the country every spring.
It goes as follows: a star recruit signs with a specific school after being recruited incessantly by a usually persuasive coach. However, the coach moves to a better head coaching position, leaving all of the new recruits at an enormous disadvantage. They are now stuck at a school with a coach who they do not know and who did not recruit them. As Taylor told Zagoria during the aforementioned situation: “I don’t want to go to Marquette and everything gets changed around.”
Unfortunately, since the player has already signed a letter of intent, it is not guaranteed that the university will allow them to immediately leave the school and sign somewhere else. If the school does not let them leave, the player will have to sit out a year if he wants to transfer.
It does not make sense for universities to force student-athletes to stay in a situation that they did not necessarily agree to. They signed with a specific coach. Yes, the legacy of the basketball program or the location of the school may have played a part, but the relationship between a recruit and a coach is more often than not the deciding factor when a player chooses his destination.
“We have a minor entering into a contract with a university based on the influence the coach had over this child to make him decide to sign with this school over somewhere else,” Hurley told Rivals.com. “A very persuasive adult with a basketball reputation convinced this minor to enter a contract because of all the things he’s going to do for him. Then the coach goes to another situation, and now you’re going to have another person coach the kid who [the recruit] doesn't even know.”
There seems to be a growing consensus among most people around high school and college basketball that there needs to a rule change when it comes to players who sign with schools that eventually lose their coaches. It simply makes sense. Why should a high school recruit be forced to stay in a situation that he did not agree to and is not likely to be happy in?
Fran Fraschilla, a former coach at Manhattan College and St. John’s University and now a college basketball analyst for ESPN, said he thinks players should have time to reconsider their commitment to a school in case the coach leaves or is fired.
“My feeling is, if a coach leaves, the player who signed should be free to decide whether to stay or open up his recruitment,” Fraschilla said. “If the coach that recruited them decides to leave, the player should be let out for a period of time to explore his options. Regardless of who the coach is, he can stay there – but he should be able to reconsider his decision.”
Fraschilla thinks the period of time should be three weeks, which is ample time for a recruit to look at other schools and see if he wants to stick with his original college choice.
He actually went through this situation with one player when he made the short move from Manhattan to St. John’s. “He signed a letter-of-intent to play for me, and it was touchy,” Fraschilla said. “But I had a good enough relationship with Manhattan that they let him out.”
Zagoria is on the same side of the issue as Fraschilla, as he thinks incoming recruits of a certain program should have the same options as the coach that left for a presumably better job. “If a college basketball coach leaves, the student-athlete should have that same opportunity,” Zagoria said. “It’s absolutely absurd; the kid is bound but the coach is not.”
There is certainly another side to the issue. Many people believe a player should not base his college decision simply on his relationship with the current coach, and he should factor in a coach’s job security when it comes to make a final choice. Coaches across the country are always either in danger of losing their jobs because of constant disappointment, or are consistently getting looked at for better jobs because they have been successful enough for a certain period of time. It is a tough balance for a prospective recruit to keep in mind, but it is also one that needs to be thought about when deciding on which school to attend.
“The reality is, coaches are always in a tenuous situation,” Fraschilla said. “Their life spans are not long.”
As a result, there is an argument that players need to look at other aspects of the college outside of strictly the head coach when choosing their college.
Although Zagoria feels there should definitely be a rule allowing players to reconsider their options once a coach leaves, he sees the other side of the argument.
“The school is still the same, it’s in the same place,” he said. “All of the elements are still the same.”
There is at least one person who feels that the issue is becoming less of a problem lately because administrators are becoming more understanding about the situation. Carmen Maciariello, vice president of the Albany City Rocks, an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) program that has sent 67 players to Division-I schools in the past decade, said more and more players are being allowed to leave in case a coach departs.
“Now a lot of athletic directors are becoming more flexible,” Maciariello said. “Usually those kids can get out of their letters-of-intent, but we try to have a very good relationship with the coach and athletic director just in case.”
Despite the clear need for a rule change in general, there certainly should be limits to how far the rule should extend. If it goes too far, too many players will feel they have the right to leave. For example, many high school players are recruited most heavily by assistant coaches, and it is not a stretch to say that some players choose a school based on the relationship they developed with that assistant coach. However, if schools start allowing recruits to leave because an assistant coach moved on to another job, that could open a Pandora’s box of problems, as too many student-athletes will think they have a legit reason to leave without being penalized.
“I wouldn’t be in favor of that,” Fraschilla said of the hypothetical rule extending to include assistant coaches. “I think that would be going a little overboard.”
Furthermore, the hypothetical rule likely shouldn’t apply to transfers, either. Currently, the rule in college basketball is that a player who wants to leave a program and transfer needs to sit out a year before becoming eligible to play again. It prevents players from going to four different schools in four different years, or leaving a college whenever they want. The transfer rule makes sense, and should stay the way it is.
“Sitting out a year implies that there is an impact of changing schools,” Zagoria said. “You don’t want to create a scenario where everyone can leave.”
Fraschilla feels the same way. “If he starts attending school and the coach gets fired, he shouldn’t be allowed to just leave and be eligible right away,” he said. “He should still have to sit out if he was already at the school. The one-year policy that exists should stay in place.”
There might be one way to avoid the problematic situation altogether. Indiana University made a somewhat controversial hire when it chose Kelvin Sampson as its head coach. Sampson had problems with the NCAA when he was at the University of Oklahoma, and continued to have the same problems when he arrived in Bloomington in 2006. The NCAA began an investigation in October 2007 regarding impermissible phone calls Sampson supposedly made. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, that was right around the time that the early signing period for high school recruits began.
In order for recruits to stick with Indiana and not get scared away at the possibility of NCAA punishment or the loss of Sampson, the university gave each player an opt-out clause. It stated that, if Sampson left or the school received a postseason tournament ban before the recruit arrived on campus in the fall of 2008, the player would be freed from his commitment. At the time, the recruits – Terrell Holloway and Devin Ebanks – never thought they would have to use it, but lo and behold, Sampson was out before March began after the NCAA found Indiana had committed five major violations during Sampson’s tenure. Holloway has since signed with Xavier, while Ebanks is still considering his options.
Zagoria said this concept could really help the whole recruiting process if it becomes more popular. “If all kids could get that, it would set a real precedent,” he said.
Maciariello thinks it is a good idea but feels that it should not be necessary. “In an ideal world, you don’t need to have that,” he said. “It’s good for the schools to cover themselves, but hopefully people’s words still matter nowadays.”
If a rule change was in fact enacted which allowed players to reconsider their options in case the coach they signed with either left for another job or was fired, there are two domino effects that it could have on college basketball. One, coaches might receive more job security due to the fact that administrators and athletic directors wouldn’t want to risk losing an entire recruiting class by getting rid of a coach. Fraschilla discussed how some athletic directors would rather fire a coach before a highly-touted recruiting class arrives so that the new coach would have a nice base on which to build his version of the program. If this rule were put into place, the administrators would have to rethink their approach.
Secondly, this would directly affect one of the rising trends in the recruiting game: players signing with schools later and later in the process. It used to be that players would sign in November during the early signing period and there would be nothing but scraps and the occasional star player available come the spring, or late, signing period. However, a growing number of players are now waiting to sign with schools until after their high school season ends, which is normally in March. For example, three of this season’s top-13 recruits (Tyreke Evans, Scotty Hopson, Ater Majok) according to Rivals.com waited to sign until April, while another (Ebanks) signed in May.
Fraschilla mentioned how the aforementioned Bob Hurley is a major proponent of signing in the spring, mainly because of the chance a coach might leave after one of his players has signed with that school.
“This is why Bob Hurley would rather his players sign in the spring,” he said. “[His son] Bobby Hurley didn’t sign [with Duke] until the spring; he doesn’t like his players signing in the fall.”
It boils down to the fact that the majority of players choose their destination as a result of how they got along with the head coach, a fact solidified by discussions with multiple people involved in high school and college basketball.
Said Fraschilla: “A player will likely choose a school based on his relationship with the head coach.”
Said Zagoria: “The biggest part in a player’s decision is his relationship with the coach.”
There should undoubtedly be a rule enacted which would allow recruits a certain period of time to reconsider their options should the coach they signed with get fired or move up in the coaching ranks to another job. A player who signs with a school is not just signing with the school; he’s signing with a coach and that coach’s vision of building a program. The coach may have made a player a relative promise about how much playing time he should expect to receive, or what plans he has for the player. Once that coach leaves, though, all of that is out the window. If the player meets with the new coach and finds that he does not have the same vision as the former coach, the player should not be forced to stay in that situation. It is not the situation he signed on with, and he therefore should be able to change his mind and find a place where he will be a better fit and be happier.
Luckily for Tyshawn Taylor, he was able to eventually get out of his letter-of-intent and move on to another school where he actually wanted to be. However, all student-athletes aren’t so lucky, and that is both wrong and unfair.
UPDATED AT 11:47 PM EST, June 26
Just one of the many problems with the college recruiting process. Great article!ReplyDelete
A huge problem, but it underscores why recruits need to look past the coach and examine the total university.ReplyDelete
Would a business student leave a school if the dean of his school was fired?
I realize its not the exactly the same scenario (you don't spend anywhere near the same amount of time with a prof. as a coach), but it is important to view the situation like a regular student.
If the relationship between the coach and recruit is the critical factor, what about the school with a new head coach? What if the old head coach recruited players the new coach doesn't believe will fit his style of play? If the recruit can opt out when the head coach leaves, should the school be allowed to opt out of the scholarship offer at the whim of the new coach?ReplyDelete
Great article. It seems like the players are always getting screwed in college hoops. The NBA age limit is another example - the league forces the best players to go to school for the year so that their marketability increases. Would anyone care about the Oden/Durant or Beasley/Rose debates if they were coming out of high school?ReplyDelete
Most of the time, when a coach leaves the recruits are released from their letter of intent, which is a good thing. And I agree with the idea that they should be given a grace period (I think you said three weeks) to be able to find another place to go.
At Jon: if the school opts out of the scholarship, isn't that essentially the same thing as releasing a player from his LOI?