So, the thinking is – if a player signs a letter of intent, he’s bound to that school and off limits to all other schools. A letter of intent pretty much is binding for the freshman year of college.
Great, in theory. In practice, it’s a nightmare.
For one, if you sign a LOI and then are released from it, you cannot sign another one. That means, if you decide to choose another school, you can STILL get those phone calls and scholarship offers up until the point you register for classes. Yikes!
For another, if you sign and want to be released, you actually don’t HAVE to be released. The coach and the athletic director can both deny your release.
That doesn’t mean that you still have to attend that school – you can certainly go anywhere else you want. However, it DOES mean that 1) you can’t play for another school for your first year, and 2) you have to pay your own way – no athletic scholarships are allowed, though if you receive a national or federal academic scholarship, you can certainly use that for whatever school you attend.
So coaches/ADs have a trump card to really force kids into sticking with their commitments, right?
Not so fast – see, coaches and ADs can jump ship really whenever they feel like it (ie. more money elsewhere), so what’s to keep them from honoring THEIR commitments to the student-athletes?
Well, the public, actually. When a school changes coaches or ADs and incoming kids don’t want to play for the new coach or his coaching staff, they usually request their release from their LOI. Coaches and ADs know that forcing the kids to honor that LOI runs the risk of a huge negative publicity backlash – the school already has some negativity associated with it BECAUSE of the coaching change, so there’s absolutely no reason to heap more on top by forcing kids who don’t want to play there to stay there – or worse, go elsewhere and have to pay their own way AND sit out a year.
And therein lies the problem Stan Heath is facing at South Florida with Jarrid Famous.
See, Famous was recruited by two coaches who have subsequently been let go from the USF staff – and that took place a week before Famous signed his now inFamous LOI. (Though, I believe Famous Sr – Jerome Famous – had more to do with the signing than anything else, but I digress.) Heath has stated that he’s not going to let Famous out of his LOI, so Famous has to appeal to the AD.
If the AD denies Famous’ appeal and refuses to release him, Famous will go somewhere else anyway, sit out his year, and still have two years of eligibility. However, the recruiting backlash would be horrendous for a USF team that already sits at the bottom of the Big East. Coaches recruiting the same recruits as USF would easily be able to use that against the USF recruiters, saying “look what happened to Jarrid Famous – lied to by the USF staff, then wasn’t released from his LOI. What else could they be lying to you about? You could be stuck there.”
No, it’s very likely that the USF AD will be releasing Famous – assuming Famous doesn’t change his mind again (or have it changed for him – the elder Famous is still lurking around somewhere).
Most pundits around the country list Arizona as the most likely landing place for Famous if he leaves USF. Seton Hall has an outside chance, but Missouri is out of the running because of their glut at PF.
Word to the wise – coaches if you’re out there, never, ever fire an assistant if you haven’t signed his recruits yet. And if you do, at least tell your recruit why. Better to be up front than to have this kind of mess thrust upon you.