Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

Commitments Differ for College Players, Coaches

There are, I have discovered, four things in the world today that you absolutely cannot count on:

1) Airlines
2) Vladimir Putin
3) Giving a small boy a goldfish and expecting it to live very long
4) College coaches honoring their contracts

Let us confine our remarks to the latter, inasmuch as this is the high season when most college football coaches are anxiously looking for greener pastures. The same thing will happen four months hence with basketball coaches. They let themselves be wooed by other colleges, with the idea that they can just pull up stakes or, just as good, use these pretty attentions to rewrite their current deal.

Most everything in college sports is deceitful, but the coaching Virginia reel is the worst of it. After all, it isn't just the greedy, duplicitous coaches who are at fault here. They're seduced by athletic directors and, yes, college presidents. Everyone's on the make. As a consequence, it's difficult for anybody in college sports ever to decry the total lack of ethics that we see when coaches cut and run.

Now, please understand that in this great capitalistic land of ours, everybody has a right to better themselves. If some coach is at little East Cupcake Teachers College and gets a chance to take over the football fortunes of Glory-Be State U. A & M., hey, it's only fair to tear up his contract and wish him Godspeed. But when coaches at reasonably equivalent big-time institutions cheat and duck out, that's unconscionable.

The greater sin is that there's such a horrible double standard. Coaches recruit high school players. Sure, these kids sign up to go to a college. Some of them might even like the place. And some of them know they're going to get good money under the table from the friendly boosters. But mostly, kids go to play for a coach, not to play at a college. But they have to sign a National Letter of Intent — a bona fide contract — which locks them into that school. If they want to switch colleges — because, as we hear from the coaches' lobby, everybody in this great capitalistic land of ours has a right to better themselves — the players have to sit out a year from their sport.

At the very least, the NCAA — which is essentially to college athletic departments, what the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce is to casinos — ought to allow any player the right to bail out the instant their dear, old coach does.

It's ironic that professional coaches almost never jump teams. Professional sports don't presume to be anything but what they are, which is a business doing business. College sports are some kind of s bizarre hybrid, so everybody has to fib some to keep up the educational pretense. With that kind of framework, why should contracts and loyalty and honor matter?

Unless, of course, you've got a vulnerable 18-year-old kid over the barrel. He alone has to play by the rules that the adults thumb their noses at.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford