RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
We turn to commentator Frank Deford now because it's not only professional football coaches who are on the move. He's noticed a certain trend in the college ranks.
FRANK DEFORD: There are, I have discovered, four things in the world today that you absolutely cannot count on. Number one, airlines; number two, Vladimir Putin; number three, giving a small boy a goldfish and expecting it to live very long; and number four, 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, and 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. Everybody'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&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 since 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, they, 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, the NCAA ought to allow any player the right to bail out the instant 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 a bizarre hybrid, so everybody has to fib some to keep up the educational pretense. And with that kind of framework, why should contracts and loyalty and honor matter? Unless, of course, you 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.
MONTAGNE: Frank Deford - his latest novel is the - entitled "The Story of Baseball Celebrity and Scandal." He joins us each Wednesday from member station WFHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
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