Sooner coach Bob Stoops
Gundy created controversy when he reportedly listed 37 schools that Lunt was prohibited from transferring to without forfeiting a year of financial aid.
Good for Stoops. He may not be in agreement with the court of public opinion, but he makes some valid points.
Stoops told Ubben that he has never restricted a player in transferring from Oklahoma but defends the coaches who do. More:
I support every coach and I support Mike Gundy in every way if they have their issues because all situations are different. I mean that sincerely. Mike’s doing the right thing in his case, Stoops said at an Oklahoma caravan event on Wednesday night.
A guy says, 'I’m coming to you' and you get a running back, and then all of a sudden you don’t have a running back. He leaves. That doesn’t leave your program in a great spot, right? So, I’m totally in agreement.
Critics argue that coaches leave schools without a potential one year sit-out penalty so it is unfair to place restrictions on transferring student-athletes. But coaches can be penalized.
Unless a school is willing to pay a coach's contract's buy-out clause from his former school, the coach is responsible for paying that amount which can be up to seven figures. Lunt can transfer to any of the 37 schools Gundy listed but if he chooses one of them, he will be financially responsible for the first year of his education. The student-athlete, like the head coach, can suffer a financial penalty if he leaves.
Nobody likes seeing a student-athlete being taken advantage of but Stoops brings up a very good point. The student-athlete's decision is voluntary.
Nobody made them sign with me. I didn’t force them to, it was what they wanted to do. And because we’re limited in what we’re allowed per scholarship, it’s the right thing to have consequences, otherwise you’d have kids changing their mind every year. It’s not right.
Ubben also noted that Stoops "argued that players sign letters of intent with schools and not coaches, so even a coaching change shouldn't make it OK for players to leave."
While Stoops is technically correct, it also can be argued that players do sign with the coach.
Schools hire head coaches to recruit and sign the best football prospects. The head coach represents the school, aka the football program, and hires assistants who develop strong relationships with the prospect. The prospect may feel he is signing with the coach despite signing a National Letter of Intent acknowledging that he is not:
Coaching Changes. I understand I have signed this NLI with the institution and not for a particular sport or coach. If a coach leaves the institution or the sports program (e.g., not retained, resigns), I remain bound by the provisions of this NLI. I understand it is not uncommon for a coach to leave his or her coaching position.
Should the NCAA waive transfer penalties if a head coach leaves?
The NCAA has eased transfer rules for schools which have been placed under severe sanctions. Both USC and Penn State saw several players transfer to other FBS schools without penalty after receiving postseason bans. Most fans are happy with this rule because they do not want to see a student-athlete suffer the effects of severe sanctions. Fans of teams who have incurred that ban feel differently and liken it to an NFL-like free agency.
The inevitable coaching carousel cranks up every winter. The landscape of college football would be apoplectic if the NCAA allowed student-athletes to freely transfer after a coaching change. But there is a safety net for incoming freshmen who have a change of heart.
If the student-athlete does not sign the NLI and decides to enroll somewhere else before setting foot in class in his first year, he does not incur a penalty.
The NLI is the contract that binds the student to the school. It acknowledge a one-year financial aid package and it stops the student-athlete's recruitment by other schools. Signing an NLI is not mandatory although coaches do encourage prospects to sign it.
Lunt had already enrolled at Oklahoma State and played last year so this example does not apply to him. But it has applied to others.
Most coaching changes occur in December or early January, five or six months after most student-athletes have enrolled. They are on the hook. But for an early enrollee (January) who has committed to a school in the preceding fall and has not signed an NLI, a coaching change in December is not a game changer. He can enroll somewhere else without a penalty.
This isn't a perfect system. It never will be. But the student-athlete who is wavering on where to play or is hearing rumors of his coach leaving should not sign an NLI. He will have to endure more recruiting phone calls until he does enroll at a school but the alternative has more repercussions.
Prospects should assume a head coach will not be at the same school in four years. They need to ask themselves if they still want to attend that school if its head coach leaves. If their answer is no, then they should presume the worst-case scenario.
Stoops says he has never been in the position of having to restrict a player's list of potential transfer destinations.
"I haven’t done it, but I support every coach who does," he told Ubben.
The question is, if he has not done it, then does that not imply he thinks it is a practice that should be avoided? Or does it imply that players who have wanted out of Oklahoma simply haven't listed schools that would be a conflict of interest for the Sooners?
Maybe Bob Stoops just opened up a new recruiting tactic. Come to Oklahoma. We won't restrict your transfer if you decide you do not want to play here.