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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The devastating effects of major college football head coaches leaving suddenly

Recent head coaching bombshells in college football highlights big problems in the sport

By OMAR NAVARRO — sports@theaggie.org

When high school athletes get recruited to a university to play a certain sport, they decide to go somewhere for a variety of reasons. Whether it be location, success or a feeling that the head coach had their best interest in mind, the decision of where to continue their playing career is one of the biggest decisions they have to make. So what happens when a college head coach decides to abruptly leave to another school? It leaves many players now with buyers remorse, among a lot of other things, since this is not what they signed up for. 

Specifically when looking at college football, news has rocked the headlines ever since the end of November. It began with former Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley leaving the Sooners to move to Southern California and accept the USC head coaching position. In a stunning move, he caught everyone off guard — including people at Oklahoma as well. This move sent shockwaves through the college football world, as one of the best young coaches who was seemingly an Oklahoma staple was on the move. 

“Everybody feels hurt and betrayed,” Jeff Stewart, who owns O’Connell’s Irish Pub, an OU institution, told the Los Angeles Times. “You can’t have that kind of thing happen that quickly. The final decision, yes, but there’s a lot more to it. I feel like it may have started earlier in the season, where maybe his mindset was more on the upcoming job.” 

As if that wasn’t enough, another longtime head coach switched places. Now former Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly surprised everyone when he accepted the position at LSU after a long tenure with the Fighting Irish. The move rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, as players found out about the news through social media.

Finally, the last major move of college football in recent weeks was the move of Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal to Miami University. According to Oregon, the University of Miami did not reach out to ask for permission to talk to Cristobal, as the news once again culminated the very busy head coaching market. 

All of these shocking moves had something in common — money. With coaching contracts on the rise, the temptation to move has done so as well. While an official figure was not reported on Riley’s move, the expectation is that it was over $9 million annually. For Kelly, his move down to Louisiana included a 10-year, $95 million contract, and for Cristobal, it was reported to also be a 10-year deal worth $8 million a year. With the high dollar figure offered, it’s no wonder these coaches just got up and left situations that many thought they would never leave.

While earning more money is beneficial for the coach and their future, the question arises — are these sudden changes ruining college football? Since the introduction of huge money into college football, it has become more of a bidding war than anything else. 

The era of longtime tenured head coaches at school has now changed into the threat that anyone can leave at any moment. The problem with this is that a head coach leaving affects the players who they recruited to go to the school. A big factor in the decision of picking which school to play for is the head coach. With moves becoming so volatile, these moves can ruin the college career of student-athletes as now they are placed in a situation that they weren’t expecting or must transfer in the middle of their college career. 

Abruptly leaving a program while possible in college sports is iffy. When Kelly left Notre Dame, they still had a chance to make the College Football Playoff. His move and the timing of it was met with heavy criticism, as it is just another example of how much of a business college football has become. 

“By making this move now, Kelly should be a pariah in his profession, never thought of the same way again,” said Dan Wolken for USA Today. “He doesn’t care at all about those players, and whatever respect he had earned for his stewardship of the Notre Dame program over the last dozen years has been flushed down the toilet.”

Not only is leaving suddenly shocking for the players, it leaves the coaches and recruiters in an awkward position. Since recruiting is a year round pursuit, Kelly, Riley and Cristobal had still been recruiting for the university even before the move, selling the players on what eventually was lies. Kelly was at a recruit’s house on a visit for Notre Dame when the news of his move to LSU broke, leaving the family unable to wrap their heads around what happened. One of Kelly’s Notre Dame assistants was exiting a recruits home when he found out the news and expressed how he felt after he had just basically told the recruit lies. 

“The news broke when I walked out of the house, so I look like a f—– a—–e.”

In Riley’s case, his move caused shockwaves as now many recruits and players at Oklahoma announced their transfer. In what looked like a quick process, Riley left the program and player’s shocked by this move — something they certainly did not see coming.

“They were, of course, blindsided — they were in shock,” now interim Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said. “They were very respectful of coach Riley as he addressed them. Some even clapped for him as he left, but in shock.”

In the aftermath of all the coaches leaving, the universities have lost players who were committed to the school as well as players already there. It has created a ripple effect as players look for new homes.

“Their precise motivations differ, but the rattling decisions Riley and Kelly made were united by an overarching cause,” Adam Kilgore said in the Washington Post. “An infusion of money into the sport, through both mammoth television contracts and wealthy donors, has distorted the terrain and amplified the imperative to win immediately and constantly. Even coaches at flagship programs may have a wandering eye, and even schools that recently won national championships may boot the coach who won it.”

While moving to situations that are the best for a person is something they are encouraged to do, there is a lot wrong with the current changes in college football. No other league allows teams to openly negotiate with another team while still under contract, so this precedent set in college football is dangerous for everyone involved, since anyone can just up and leave. Although the transfer rules now allow a player to leave easier, it is still a hard transition to a place they thought was their second home.

There have already been more head coaching changes this year than the previous, and players now have another decision to make. Whether or not it works out for the coaches that move, one thing is clear — when it comes to major college football programs, it has become harder to trust those in charge, since they can leave so suddenly and leave the program in the dark. 

Written by: Omar Navarro — sports@theaggie.org

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