It’s about time we stop calling the contracts that big-time National Collegiate Athletic Association coaches sign “contracts,” and use the proper terminology for that they really are.
The infamous binding of faith and love with the hard-and-fast letter of the law clearly states in the kindest way void of judicial jargon: I love you now. But something could go wrong, sooner than later, and when it does, I’m not responsible for it.
Chip Kelly became the latest college coach to skip town, leaving the University of Oregon Ducks football team. It was a proud program he decorated with roses, Tostitos fiesta chips, a trip to the BCS Title Game and approximately $77 million in payouts over the last four years. The program is now in the midst of an NCAA investigation that has reported “at least one major violation,” according to The Oregonian.
The program has proposed a self-imposed penalty, but will wait on an NCAA ruling following its own investigation.
But the one person most culpable for the upheaval, Chip Kelly himself, will be waiting on something else. A direct deposit of his first paycheck of the five-year, $32.5 million contract he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, and probably not much else.
Because that’s what college coaches do these days. They pack up shop and leave whenever they want.
Pete Carroll did the same thing at USC. The program suffered losses of multiple scholarships and a two-year bowl ban for transgressions under his watch. Then, the program and players suffered the consequences while he took refuge in the Space Needle as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
The great coaches come in and throw a crazy party for a few years. Scantily clad ladies, kegs, ice block, flip cup. Then they leave the cigarette butts, booze stains and trash for the schools and their student-athletes to clean up on their own.
Coaches that regularly sit down at their introductory press conferences on the altar make their vows of “accountability” and the “team” concept to the press. Is it fair they leave their programs in shambles for a more attractive option with no repercussions?
There should be something, anything, in place to prevent it. A one-year grace period before they can seek employment elsewhere probably is a little harsh, and would seem to violate the basic human rights of a U.S. citizen.
But wait, that’s the exact law for the student-athlete. If one of them desires a transfer to another NCAA Division I program, they must wait one year to play.
The concept is genuine. You can’t have fickle teenagers jumping ship depending on what mood they are in or where their current girlfriend is enrolled. Manti Te’o would have been a very disappointed Stanford Cardinal last year.
But shouldn’t the same rule apply for coaches? The ones for whom the program lives and dies by? The men who not only become the faces of their programs and, in some instances, become father-figures to many of these young adults they recruit?
There are bad rules and then there are absurdities. One of the biggest stipulations and negotiating points in any contract is its length. Steve Alford signed a 10-year contract extension March 20 with his New Mexico Lobos. That contract was honored for about 10 days. On March 30, multiple media outlets reported he was leaving New Mexico to take the prestigious job at UCLA.
Let us not dispute that anyone associated with college basketball would rather be strolling the Pacific Palisades boardwalk and working in the shadow of the legendary John Wooden than avoiding scorpion stings and gila monster bites in Albuquerque.
But in what other business anywhere in the world does a 10-year contract last 10 days where that person either had major extenuating circumstances or just dropped dead?
The standard should be a clause in every coach’s contract requiring punitive damages for money lost under a coach’s tutelage should it experience setbacks, even after their tenure has run its course. A stipulation that takes a percentage of wages earned in their next gig. Something of the like to give the university the power to minimize the damages it is largely not responsible for.
Don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. So long as NCAA President Mark Emmert and his clown car of cronies are around, the schools will have to suffer the penalties. They will lose the scholarships. The scholarship is not made up for in other areas nor at other schools. It’s just one more student-athlete that has to fill out a FAFSA form and hope for the government and its taxpayers to help them bear the burden.
But make no mistake, all ethical problems coming down on these types are being perpetuated by older adults with fat pockets.
They are college-age. They make mistakes and do really stupid things, but isn’t that part of the college experience for many of us? The coaches, NCAA administrators and university presidents have the power to act like grown men and make the relationship between the coaches and the universities and its students a fair one.
During March Madness broadcasts this year, NCAA commercials repeatedly aired that had spirit squads and marching bands following athletes around campus. At the end, it would always say, “just always know we’re there for student athletes.”
I can envision the NCAA saying that to its student-athletes, the way a big-time coach says the same thing to the school that hires him.
“I will assume responsibility, I will represent, I will always be there for you…Just sign this agreement at the line down at the bottom…”