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Here’s what we should do when coaches leave after Signing Day

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This should cost someone money. That money should go somewhere specific.

Mississippi State athletic department. Banner Society illustration

When a coach leaves for another job days after players have signed to play for him, that sucks. Those players remain tied to that school despite that school making a big change.

Sure, every player knows every coach can eventually leave, and there’s more to a college choice than the coach himself. But it’s stupid that this can happen to amateur athletes shortly after their signings have gone through, and doubly stupid because those players have much less freedom to leave than their coaches do.

That brings us to a proposal: create a national player compensation fund (in addition to all the other such funds we’re proposing), which collects one year of contracted head coach salary from each post-Signing Day coaching change, then distributes it. The December Signing Day, that is.

We’ll call it part of the Bring University Youth Out from Under Tyranny plan, aka BUYOUT.

When a coach leaves after/during December’s first Signing Day for another team, whichever team executed the transaction should be on the hook.

We’ll limit BUYOUT to just the salary that would’ve been paid for the following season, for simplicity and decent logic. (But if you want to extend this to all remaining contracted years, by all means.)

Let’s use the particularly shameless 2019-20 cycle as the example.

  • Joe Moorhead fired by Mississippi State on January 3: $3.15 million owed by MSU (in addition to money owed to Moorhead himself). They could’ve fired him well before Signing Day, not well after. That choice deprived players of valuable information and should cost MSU.
  • Matt Rhule left Baylor on January 7 for the Carolina Panthers: ~$4.1 million owed by the Panthers. NFL departures are tricky, since coaches can’t really leave for those in early December, but there should still be compensation for players. (How will we force an NFL team to comply? Simple. Humiliating pranks until they surrender. Next.)
  • Rocky Long left San Diego State on January 8, later becoming New Mexico defensive coordinator: ~$900,000 owed by New Mexico. If a coach sorta retires and then shows up elsewhere, yep, the deal still applies.
  • Mike Leach left Washington State on January 9 for Mississippi State: $4 million owed by MSU.
  • Nick Rolovich left Hawaii on January 14 for Washington State: ~$600,000 owed by WSU.
  • Mel Tucker left Colorado State on February 12 for Michigan State: $2.7 million owed by MSU.

Additionally, we can count part of this one:

  • Mark Dantonio left Michigan State on February 4: Since he hasn’t yet taken another college football job, he owes no future salary to the fund at this time. People are allowed to retire. If he ever takes another job for an athletic department, the fiddler will then collect. However, Dantonio received a $4.3 million bonus for being MSU’s coach on January 15, 2020, despite then leaving hours before February’s Signing Day. That $4.3 million is going into the player fund, because I said so.

Add all that up, and we have a pile of $19.7 million for every FBS player to split.

“But there will be court battles for all that money!”

Yes, that will provide internet content and much embarrassment for the schools paying lawyers in order to avoid paying players. Fortunately, I’m in charge of all this now. Let the lawyers flail all they want.

“How do we decide which players get portions?”

For this 2020 example, how about we include the following:

  • Every player to sign a 2020 National Letter of Intent at any FBS school
  • Every player on a 2019 FBS roster (since none of these coaches would be worth hiring, if not for their old players)
  • Every player on a 2020 FBS roster, in case the above two steps miss anybody

Let’s round that up to 15,000 players, for simplicity. That would be about $1,300 for each 2019/20 FBS player. Not a lot for each player, but much better than nothing. Regardless, it would’ve forced schools to think about their choices.

The reason we should make it a national pool, rather than including only the players at the schools with departed coaches: In hindsight, each post-NSD coaching change impacts not just that team’s signees, but also players who considered signing with that school, with subsequent butterfly effects from there.

Think about the player whose future coach didn’t leave, but who might’ve been able to act on an offer to a better school than the one he signed with, if every coaching staff had been locked in at the time.

(This could mean we extend the pool to include FCS and lower levels as well, but it might make more sense to have a separate pool for each level.)

However, for players whose own coaches leave after Signing Day, we have an additional BUYOUT benefit:

A penalty-free transfer anywhere in the country.

(However however, since we’ll also be implementing a rule that lets every transfer play immediately anyway, we’ll need to add something to BUYOUT just for these coach-deprived players. Maybe gold Trans Ams.)

“Players should just wait to sign until February Signing Day. This is all their fault for signing hastily.”

The December Signing Period is Signing Day now. February Signing Day is the last round of musical chairs. The player who waits three months, just to wait and see whether a coach randomly leaves, is risking his whole career plan, perhaps beyond football itself.

“Should we include all assistant coaches who leave after Early Signing Day?”

I don’t see why not! That would add millions each year and, again, force everyone to pause and think before leaping toward shiny things.

Consider the many side benefits of BUYOUT.

  • Schools will think twice before signing coaches to big deals. Three of 2020’s six post-NSD departees signed lucrative extensions four or fewer months before leaving! We should add as much risk to these ridiculous contracts as possible.
  • What a frantic coach-hiring fiesta we’ll have around Thanksgiving each year. Athletic directors will get to do some real work! Imagine them wheeling and dealing like maniacs, under pressure to avoid post-NSD penalties. (If we find they abuse this by stealing active coaches during the regular season, we’ll penalize that, too. Yes, we’re working toward all coaching changes being conducted during a two-hour melee on live TV, which is also our solution to CFB scheduling. Suits having to engage in melee after melee: That’s the content we crave.)
  • More coach stability nationwide. Your school’s problems are likely deeper than the head coach! Odds are pretty good you rarely win more games than this anyway. Each new hire is a roll of the dice, and even if the next guy is great, he’ll probably also be gone within four years. Let’s try settling down a little bit!
  • Coaches and schools finding diabolical hacks in order to screw rivals. The possibilities are endless, and it’s all for a good cause (money in the hands of student-athletes), so get creative out there.
  • Schools will likely make more cautious investments into shit they don’t need. If you’re helping to pay labor, you might not have to hide profits in expensive facilities.
  • This also means signing a coach to a big contract puts a target on his back, leading to national amusement. Imagine players conspiring to take down fattened coaches, for the good of the collective. Auburn comrades, imagine the good Gus Malzahn’s salary could do for the many, instead of only the Gus. Simply go like 7-6, then watch the king’s gold vault shower the village below.