Kevin Sumlin Didn't Leave (This Time), But Unlike His Players, He Could
There was much panic among the Houston Cougar faithful when head coach Kevin Sumlin's name was mentioned in regards to the open University of Cincinnati coaching job. And that same panic was seen as well at Stanford when coach Jim Harbaugh's name was mentioned in connection with the Kansas job.
What prompted the Houston panic was Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly breaking his contract to take over the overrated Notre Dame program. This happens every football season, a coach breaking his contract to jump to another school which prompts another coach to jump his current contract, which prompts another coach to break his contract. And so on, and so on, and so on. And fans get upset, and gripe about the lack of honor amongst the coaches for not fulfilling the terms of their contracts. I often find this griping to be unjustified because it's not uncommon for these same fans to be among the first to cry that coach be fired for not meeting their expectations.
But there is one thing that bothers me about all of this. And that thing is the coach breaking his promises to the players that he recruited to play for him. The Cincinnati players were pretty upset over what transpired last week, and they accused Kelly of deserting them. In a way, these players are right.
Sure, there are some players who go to a team to play for that specific college team. It's always been their dream to play at Michigan or Texas or Alabama, and they don't care who the coach is as long as they're on the team. But many of the players go to a school because they want to play for that coach. A running back commits to Michigan because the school has a history as a running school, only to have Rich Rodriguez -- a coach who didn't recruit him -- come in and install the spread offense.
The player, unlike the coaches and the administration, is stuck at the school, however.
They can't just transfer to another school and play football. That's not allowed. If a player transfers, he must sit out a season before he can play again. Brian Kelly doesn't have to sit out a year for transferring to another school, but if one of his players were to want to go to Notre Dame and play for him, then he would be out of luck.
Why are the players punished? Students at the business school don't have to sit out a year of business classes if they transfer from Houston to Texas. So why must a player miss a year of eligibility?
There is one primary exception to this rule, and it is known as the One-Time Transfer Exception. In this, the player must be transferring to another school to compete in a sport other than a Division One sport. This must be the first such transfer. The student must have been academically eligible at the school from which he's attempting to transfer. And, finally, the player must obtain a written release from his current school stating that the school has no objection to this transfer. (This happened this past August when QB Blake Joseph transferred from UH to Sam Houston State and in which the Cougars provided the written release to the NCAA.)
The NCAA always gives lip service to the student-athlete. One of the "so-called" major reasons that the NCAA is against a Division One football playoff is that it would supposedly harm the athletes in their role as students because the traveling and practicing would supposedly distract from class work, studying, and finals -- the falsity of this argument is proven in that college basketball teams are playing during Fall Semester finals, and there is never any objection from the NCAA over how the March Madness travel schedule disrupts their study habits.
It seems that, if the NCAA really gave a damn about the student-athletes, then it would let them out of their school commitments when the person they committed to departs the team for greener pastures. Then again, this is the NCAA we're talking about, and the NCAA has never really been known for being true to its mission, unless that mission is one of stupid rules that are rarely enforced, and even then, only if those minor rules are enforced for the betterment of the NCAA establishment and the damage to the athletes.