Coaching transfers = different issues

Knowing how I feel about the rise in student athlete transfers, I have been asked what I think about the increased incidences – particulary this year – of coaches changing schools. It seems to be epidemic, to be sure. Maybe these things go in cycles, because athlete transfers seem to be a little down this year while coaching changes are up. But they are two different animals that warrant independent consideration.

Let’s use the case of UCLA-turned-LSU coach Nikki Caldwell. From what I hear, LSU actively sought her and then gave her an offer that was impossible to refuse: a $900,000 salary. Similarly, Xavier-turned-UW coach Kevin McGuff is now also making almost a half million, which is more than he made in Ohio. And therein lies the difference between athlete and coach transfers: it’s all about the money.

Athletes are taken care of when they transfer. When they get to their new school and have to sit out for a year, their expenses are covered. Whether they figured out they made the wrong college decision, or are wimping out due to “homesickness,” they don’t have to pay. With coaches and the schools that court them, it’s the battle of the big bucks.

The age of loyalty, honor and tradition is gone, wherever you look. People get laid off after 24 years of service, and coaches make recruits swoon and then leave them at the first sign of more green at another school. It’s everyone for themselves; that’s just the way it is. Especially in this current great depression that we’re in, no one can blame someone for accepting a large amount of cash when its offered. In a way, it’s uplifting to see that women’s basketball now commands that much attention and money.

But it’s sad for old school folks like me. There aren’t too many Pat Summitts, Tara VanDerveers, Geno Auriemmas, Muffet McGraws or Gary Blairs anymore. Now, one minute someone is talking about “the Green Bay way” and the next they’re rah-rahing their new school. And people wonder why society is so apathetic, uninspired and leaderless now.

Let me add this: schools who lose a coach have an obligation to release recruits from their letters of intent. Most do. But three years ago the University of Washington refused to do so when firing June Daugherty to get Tia Jackson – a reprehensible action. I would burn a UW flag if I ever got my hands on one. Kids sign up to work with a particular coach, and if that coach isn’t there at the time of the “final sale,” those kids need to be free to choose another.

Emotionally, I’m still pissed at Nikki Caldwell’s decision. When I see her enthusiastic tweets about her new team or a picture of her on a Louisiana billboard, it turns my stomach. But rationally, I understand why she did what she did, and I can’t blame her. Give me some more time and I won’t give a #@%$ anymore.

Maybe one day we can get to a point where salaries are synced up to keep a coach somewhere for a while. The kids – who are the ones who suffer in these coaching changes – deserve that.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the column Sue! I totally agree with it. All college coaches are in it for the money foremost and first of all otherwise they'd give up the big bucks to stay where they're at. All high school players and their parents should be aware of this because many (probably most or all) college coaches lie to them telling them how concerned they're going to always be there for them. What a bunch of BS they feed to players and parents while recruiting them.

  2. I appreciate the comments.

    Of the three levels of basketball, nowhere do they go for the money more than in college ball. That's where the money is, after all.

    I don't necessarily think the coaches lie to the athletes. At the time, the coaches think they'll be around later. But they're like pimps: the minute they see a prettier trick who can get them more dough, they're out of there.

  3. How about putting some of the onus on the recruits and their parents? It's on them to see through their own research and eyes who is genuine and who is feeding them a line. Is it so hard to see, truly, when you meet another human being, if they are genuine or not? I think not. What about the coaches who are genuine, real, compassionate and dedicated to being positive role models but then lose out on a prospect because that RECRUIT (and their parents) want to go to the "bling" schools? They want to be on T.V., wear Nike and have chartered flights (who is in it for the money?). These kids seek out the "bling", sit the bench and then complain and…transfer. Kids and their parents aren't forced to have an interest in a particular school/program…they are free to choose where they want to spend the next four, three, two, one year(s) of their lives so…it's on them to do the research. It's said that you often find what you are looking for in an experience so, if a kid wants a big-time school and "bling" that's what they'll get…if they want a kind person who not only talks but walks a good game, they'll find them – what is the priority to the recruit/parents? And, not all of us coaches leave for the money. Before you judge an entire membership you need to ask yourself if you have enough information from all sides. Yes, there have been several coaching changes recently but did you ever think that it might be because the coach wants a bigger challenge, wants to be closer to home, do they have the support of their current athletic director? Funny to think that I might be called a "pimp" because I found a higher paying job closer to my parents and family. As a division I coach now for 10 years, I can tell you the majority of the coaches on the women's side are in it for the right reasons – we care and we want to help develop and positively influence young women. To assert otherwise is a generalization based not on fact, but gossip. I would also say that college coaching is more strenuous and demanding than most people would guess so,,,the money earned is just that…money earned.

  4. Money and more visibility women's basketball is causing the sport to see some of the challenges that men's basketball has dealt with over the years come to the forefront in the women's game (And I have my theories to "why" its happening more now.)

    However, as a former Division I & II college assistant its hurtful to be considered a pimp. Remember assistants don't have a choice in most cases about their job status. When the head coach goes, they have to go. If the head coach gets fired, they have to go (I don't see student-athletes families putting up a collection plate for the assistant coaches when the head coach gets fired).

    In the case of Nikki Caldwell. I do not know her personally. I do know that UCLA fired the previous coach for not winning (business). I do know that there are some student-athletes that UCLA recruited who chose to go elsewhere because another institution would make them more marketable upon graduation with a degree or in case of those playing professionally at platform to improve and display their skils (again, business). So I can't understand if an institution can make a business decision and the student-athlete can make a business decision; Why do people have animosity when a head coach chooses to make a business decision?

    Lets face facts. Its a business. A scholarship is a one year contract in which a student-athlete is given an opportunity at an education for participating in a sport (with an option to renew). Just like a head coach is under contract with an athletic department in which they can be fired or bought out (Even with years remaining as we've seen in some cases recently).

    Yes, a program should instill discipline, foster a feeling of family and encourage the student-athlete's growth socially, academically & athletically. But let's remember – it's all done under the premise of both parties (Student-Athletes & Head Coaches) are under a contract. Athletic Departments are businesses on BOTH ends. To suggest otherwise would be naive by student-athletes, coaches, fans and media.

    I hope UCLA finds an outstanding coach. They're in the process of interviewing great candidates now- And women's basketball needs a dominate program in the southern California media market to elevate interest in the game. I'm also sure LSU feels as though its hit a home run with its hiring (They're relentless want to unseat Tenn as the power in the South/SEC). But if neither coach and staffs perform to boosters or an SWA/ADs liking they'll be gone.

    And it will be (business) as usual…

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