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.