Will colleges still try to sign football recruits to early financial-aid agreements (FAAs) after what happened to LSU?
LSU got penalized after a recruit who signed FAA papers did not end up enrolling with the Tigers this past year. The SEC stripped LSU 10-percent of its evaluation days, along with issuing the Tigers a two-year ban on signing recruits to FAA’s. (Click here for more background)
There’s a huge recruiting advantage for colleges with FAA’s – it basically gives them “unlimited contact” with the high school seniors until they enroll early in college or sign a binding national letter of intent.
We asked some of the nation’s top coaches: What kind of impact will the LSU penalty have on you with signing kids to FAA’s in the future?
Florida’s Jim McElwain: “I think because more and more kids can enroll early, I don’t think (the LSU penalty) will deter us. I think you have to really make sure that that’s going to happen (that the recruit will enroll at your school). I’m not sure anybody expected that (penalty) either.”
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema: “Before we do that, we make sure we sit down with the parents, the kid, and the high school coach involved. Before they sign (financial-aid papers), we want them to understand that ‘We’re going to do this, and there are no penalties to you. But there other penalties that could exist to us (if you don’t enroll at Arkansas).’ We were told that it would be a very stern penalty. The year before, they were waived. We signed a young man out of Miami the year before that ended up not coming to our institution, and the penalty was waived that year. But we knew that there was going to be a stiff penalty from the SEC this year. We did it with four players that we knew had been committed to us for a long time. Their parents knew that if they backed out on us, it would not only affect the scholarship we had for their son, but it could also affect us (in other ways). It’s one of those ‘You better make them understand real quick about how it can adversely affect the University of Arkansas if they go against it.’”
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze: “We’d have to feel really comfortable that that is something that is going to occur (that the recruit will enroll). I don’t know all the details with that one. I think there are some things that might’ve made it worse than what it would be … but I don’t know the specifics. When you get a kid to sign a financial-aid agreement, it gives you unlimited contact with that student-athlete. You can call them, and you can go see them – which is perfectly legal to do. But it’s all based upon school saying that the kid is midyear graduate. Let’s just say at a point and time, a kid withdraws from classes (at his high school) and that will prohibit him from being a midyear enrollee. And we as a staff know about it. If we continue to go see him, to text him, and do those things (because he signed the financial-aid agreement), that’s probably going to make it worse than if he just didn’t enroll with us. I’m basically saying I don’t know the circumstances around the LSU deal. But with knowing that there’s going to be a penalty, you’ve got to feel very, very comfortable that the kid is going to make it out midyear, that he’s in the necessary classes, that he’s going to stay in those, and that he’s definitely coming to you. That’s what has to happen for us to do that. That’s how I’m going to proceed.”
Miami’s Al Golden: “Our compliance department did a tremendous job of educating us ahead of time. We were very prudent in terms of what we handed out. I think our checks and balances here at the University of Miami were phenomenal. If we did not think they were a midyear student-athlete, we were not permitted to send the financial-aid agreement. Here’s a case where compliance, administration and football worked together to prevent those measures from happening here. But it’s a tough rule because you just don’t know what’s happening on the other end. You don’t know if the young man is signing multiple financial-aid agreements. You just don’t know. I think it’s an unfortunate circumstance for LSU to go through. Hopefully, it could be mitigated in some way in the future.”
USC’s Steve Sarkisian: “Well, you just have to know (the recruit will enroll at your school). And you have to feel really good. This is a people-industry that we’re in. It’s about developing relationships. When you’ve got a really good relationship with the prospective student-athlete, his family and his mentors, then you feel really good about it. Then you go ahead and sign him. If there’s some uncertainty there, it’s probably not a good idea to sign him to a financial-aid agreement.”
Tennessee’s Butch Jones: “We did that two years ago with a number of players, and fortunately they all came to Tennessee. We elected to not do that (for 2015 signees). We elected not to do that with anybody in this recruiting class because we did know the penalty. We elected as a program to not sign those individuals to financial-aid agreements because of the repercussions, and what would happen down the line if they didn’t attend your institution. So as a program, we did not offer those early enrollees (that option).”
Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy: “It’s going to impact us all. That was something new that hit everybody. It was kind of untreaded waters for all of us. But there are just so many things out there that are happening. So it’s certainly going to affect how we think about signing young men to those papers.”
Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops: “Yeah, that’s going to be a big deterrent. That’s a strong penalty. That’s a strong penalty in my eyes, so that will definitely make us very cautious in doing something like that – to go ahead and make multiple phone calls and contact with a player who has signed financial-aid agreements if you’re going to get that kind of penalty if they don’t end up coming with you.”