I think Coach Fox gets the better of Michael Carvell in this discussion about the restrictions college coaches put on players who want to transfer, except for this one teeny, tiny point:
What do you think about the public backlash to college coaches putting severe restrictions on transfer players? Some people feel like it’s unfair to put restrictions like that on a player who is already penalized by having to sit out one season … while a college coach can move freely at a moment’s notice to take another high-paying job and leave his players behind. “That’s not true. Coaches can’t move around freely. Coaches are bound by buyout agreements and everything else. That’s not accurate. If I wanted to leave Georgia, which I don’t and never want to … there’s a buyout in my contract that discourages that from occurring. For those who say coaches go wherever they want to go, that’s not true. I think in 90-percent of the contracts, there’s a buyout provision that if a coach would leave, there would be something given to the school that he’s leaving. I don’t think that has been portrayed accurately. I think the big issue was when there has been tampering that leads to a transfer, there ought to be, from athletic director to athletic director, some ability in place for them to restrict kids to go to schools that have tampered with the current situation.”
Coach, please. Do I really need to take you on a trip down memory lane of SOD’s greatest hits to show how ludicrous that tampering explanation is?
More importantly, there are big differences between the player’s situation and the coach’s situation in that Q&A. What differences? Let me count three ways.
- A buyout provision in a coach’s contract is the result of a negotiation between the school and the coach, more accurately, between counsel for the two parties. A coach’s refusal to allow a player to transfer is a unilateral decision, not arrived at by equal give and take. Indeed, current rules prohibit a player from engaging legal representation to negotiate the terms of a NLI and/or scholarship. The leverage in the two situations is entirely different.
- It almost sounds too simple to reiterate, but a buyout penalty isn’t the same thing as an outright prohibition on transfer. If a coach comes up with the money to pay the buyout, that’s it – he’s gone. There isn’t a similar offer a player can make to be freed from his contractual obligations to the school in a transfer setting.
- As Carvell points out to Fox, most buyouts are paid by the school to which the coach is going. That’s the nature of leverage. Top flight coaches are in demand because there are relatively few of them and those who put themselves in play tend to extract significant concessions. (That’s why the cream of the crop, like Saban, often don’t even have buyouts.) Players don’t command that sort of market power, but even if they did, again, see #2, above.
It’s a nice try, but let’s face it, some coaches behave like assholes when it comes to transfers because they can. At that point, it becomes a matter of whether they can be shamed into behaving better. But there’s nothing obligating them to do so and that’s where Fox’ comparison falls short.