Should early football signees get automatic release if coaches change?

Steve Spurrier (AP)

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney (left) thinks kids who sign early should be “free agents” if there’s a coaching change, while Steve Spurrier leans toward agreeing (AP file)

If a recruit signs in the proposed early period in mid-December, should he get an automatic release from his letter of intent if his college head coach or positional coach changes before the normal February signing period?

A proposal for an early signing period for college football will be voted on this summer.

Even though the current recommendation does not include an automatic release under those conditions, according to an NCAA spokesman, many coaches feel like maybe it should, especially if the head coach changes jobs.

Here’s what they had to say ..

Butch Jones

Butch Jones

Tennessee’s Butch Jones: “I think a lot of times the relationships are earned over time. I really think it stems from the head coach. And I really do believe that if the head coach does leave the institution, then it’s all about the welfare and benefit of the young man. I believe (an automatic release) would allow him to open his recruitment up. But assistants leave for different reasons – right, wrong or indifferent. And with the way we recruit, it’s a group effort. It’s not just one individual. But I do think if the head coach leaves, I do think that the young man should be able to explore his options.”

Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian

USC’s Steve Sarkisian: “I don’t think the position coach really matters to me. I don’t think potential student-athletes should be choosing schools based on a position coach. I think that’s the wrong way to do it. We don’t advise the kids we recruit to do that. I think they should be choosing the school based on the university, and all the things that go along with the university. I do somewhat agree with the head coach, though. I think there is some merit to that. If the head coach decides to leave after the kid has signed a national letter of intent, then you could potentially open that back up. And there’s something to be said if the head coach gets fired, too.”

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney: “Let’s say the head coach gets fired or packs up and leaves. Then that’s simple: Those recruits (who signed early) are no longer bound. If the head coach is fired or leaves, those guys are basically free agents again and can either firm up with that school or they are free to re-sign somewhere else on (the February) signing day. Because at the end of the day, that’s what happening anyways. You may have 15 guys committed and then the head coach gets fired. Guess what? Some of those guys stick with the school, while others de-commit and go somewhere else. So it would just kind of formalize it. You would definitely want to protect the student-athlete if the head coach were to leave.”

Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops: “No, because I believe you sign with the school – with the school and with the program. I believe that’s why you sign. You sign to go to school at that university. If that’s not what you’re doing, then you don’t need to sign early.”

LSU coach Les Miles (AP)

LSU’s Miles: Kids who think a coaching change may change their loyalty … “they need not sign” early (AP file)

LSU’s Les Miles: “If they have a question where (any type of coaching change) will change the loyalty to their college, then they need not sign. In other words, if they’re going to question whether or not their coach is going to be there, then they need not sign. If they think, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the place for me’ or ‘I don’t care if the coach is in place. It’s the school I’m going to go to, no matter what coach is there, then I will sign.’”

South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier: “That’s another good reason to not have another early signing period because a lot can happen. So I don’t have the exact answer. I’ve sort of enjoyed the way we have been doing it the last 10 or 15 years. But it looks like they are going to change it. Yes, if a coach leaves, well maybe the player should have a right to change. I know universities are now giving two- to three-year contracts to assistant coaches. And they are based on whether or not the head coach will be there. So if the head coach gets canned, the assistants get canned with him. There’s a lot of talk about that going on right now.”

Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson: “I think you ought to give the kids an out. Most of the times if the head coach is going to change, it’s going to happen in December. They’d have time where if the head coach changed, and the signing date was in February, they’d have time (to find another school if they wanted).”

Al Golden (AP file)

Al Golden (AP file)

Miami’s Al Golden: “I think there should be an opportunity to opt out if the head coach leaves.”

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze: “I’m not for (an early signing period). But if that does happen, I think a kid should get a release if there’s a coaching change. He should be able to re-open his recruitment for the February signing period.”

Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy: “There are so many variables involved but I think at some point, especially if it’s a head coach, that they should have the opportunity to make a decision that they can change.”

Florida’s Jim McElwain: “I’m of the opinion you sign with the university, not necessarily a person, because of all the things that university can do for you to help you be successful in life. So I don’t know. If there’s a whole staff changeover, then (an automatic release) may have some merit. At the same time, that’s going to be one of those situations that’s going to be awfully hard.”

Bret Bielema

Bret Bielema

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema: “I think there are two differences. If it’s a position coach in any way, whether it’s a coordinator or positional coach, then that is not the case at all. But I do think if there’s a change in the head coach, then I can understand the merit or at least the validity of allowing the kid to shop around and see what’s available.”

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