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Coaches move on, but recruits are stuck

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What happens to a recruit when the coach leaves and there's a binding letter of intent on the table?

Honesty, fairness, a handshake meaning something.  Then there's.....
Honesty, fairness, a handshake meaning something. Then there's.....
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

On February 4, Rutgers signed its 2015 recruiting class as 25 student-athletes faxed in their National Letters of Intent. And six days later, Kyle Flood announced a significant change in his staff, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.  A new offensive coordinator, changes in several position coaches.  It was, for Rutgers, a lot of change.  And it apparently meant very little to the 25 recruits.

Nor to those on the horizon, the "loaded" Class of 2016.  As Todderick Hunt reported the majority of the Top 50 kids from New Jersey either aren't concerned or view it as an improvement.  Reading the kids' comments, it's clear that the current staffers who are moving to new jobs on staff have a great relationship with the next round of recruits.

But that isn't the case across the country.  I was surprised - but not shocked - to see an ESPN story noting that there were "nearly 20 coaching changes announced after the ink was dry on national letters of intent".  And in many cases, these were major programs and big time recruiters moving on, in many cases to NFL jobs.  For the recruits who signed those letters of intent, there was a feeling of betrayal.  In any number of cases, the students were told flat out that the coach would be there when they began their playing careers.  Not exactly F.A.M.I.L.Y.

For me, the athlete is signing with the school.  Yes, the coach, whether the HC or an assistant, is the one doing the talking, the selling, creating the "relationship".  But you should be thinking about the school, since, and here's where I expose my naiveté, you are supposed to be going to school = class = getting an education.  Hey, you in the back: stop snickering!

In the ESPN story, former Texas coach-turned-studio analyst Mack Brown said something along similar lines, but with an addendum.  "Everybody says the young man goes to the school and not the coach, but that always doesn't happen," Brown said. "The head coach would still have an opportunity to talk to the young man and try to keep him, but they don't want to feel like someone wasn't being honest."

I don't see Ralph Friedgen's departure in the same light as some other coaches' exits around the country.  Yes, he was the OC, and there may be some (QBs come to mind) who might feel a little cheated.  But it wasn't the head coach leaving, nor a coordinator who was going to be here long term.  And Ralph apparently didn't do much recruiting.  And there's a feeling in my gut that, despite all the denials, the kids were given a pretty good idea that change might occur.

The ESPN story, though, talks about giving recruits an "escape clause" if a coach leaves.  I'm not so sure about that, but in fairness to the student, coaches never pay a price for their moves, just the students.  Again from the ESPN piece, did you know that "if a prospect doesn't enroll at the school with which he signed, he'd be ineligible as a freshman and would lose one of his four years of eligibility"?

Pretty heavy price to pay for your coach moving on to a bigger payday.