College football coaches are a strange lot, but rare is the time you can accuse them of being disloyal to one another publicly, even when their arguments are coated in hypocrisy.
Well, all except Nick Saban, but that’s only because he’s the most powerful human on the planet and probably doesn’t feel the need to fraternize with anyone beyond his next 5-star recruit.
Take the guy at Oklahoma. Bob Stoops this week glowingly defended his counterpart from in-state rival Oklahoma State, Mike Gundy.
Defended him against a decision that, more than anything, defines how sanctimonious those running the nation’s top college football factories really are.
As if we needed further proof.
“Mike’s doing the right thing in his case,” Stoops told a group of OU fans Wednesday. “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.
“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.
“It isn’t right that they can just do what they want to do. It isn’t good. I don’t believe in it.”
Funny. I’m guessing if the Dallas Cowboys called tomorrow and finally offered Stoops their head coaching job after past interest, along with the salary of your average Texas oil tycoon, the last person in the world he would think about if choosing to give the NFL a chance would be that running back.
Where are the consequences for Stoops and all other coaches? And don’t talk about buyout clauses — most of the time, a coach’s next employer finds a way to cover the amount or he’s taking a job for a lot more money than he made at the previous stop.
Cash is never an issue for these guys.
Some background on the Stoops/Gundy lovefest: Wes Lunt was the opening-day starting quarterback as a freshman for Oklahoma State last season, but eventually got hurt and fell to third string on the depth chart. He now wants to transfer and, if it’s up to Gundy, might be limited to the options of Idaho State and Palo Verde High.
Gundy has blocked Lunt’s transfer to 37 schools, including ones that aren’t even on the Cowboys’ schedule, this season or in the future. It’s a small-minded move by a petty coach who has gone so far beyond the spirit of the transfer rule in this particular case, he can’t see the forest from the orange and black trees.
Stoops, who actually allowed the nation’s No. 35 recruit to transfer to Texas A&M last year, and his peers who agree with Gundy sidestep a major point. Athletes almost always choose a program because of its coach (despite what Stoops says), the same men who can at any point decide to pursue what they feel are better jobs void of any list restricting their options.
Where is the loyalty to the kids?
What happened to the notion that a university should always do what’s in the best interest of a student?
What about Top 25 programs that over-recruit a specific class and then literally cut scholarship players loose?
There isn’t a hint of honor to it, on one hand being an NCAA rule book that for chapters and chapters restricts athletes from receiving any preferential treatment not available to all students and yet then regulating where a kid like Lunt can transfer while his biology-major roommate who doesn’t play sports faces no such hindrance.
All the while, coaches can jump from job to job while quietly smirking at the remembrance of sitting in homes of recruits promising parents they would be the ones looking after their sons for the next four or five years.
It’s an old problem, coaches limiting where a player can transfer and immediately receive financial aid, and yet no better today than ever. That coaches continue to hold such power over student-athletes is ludicrous.
Brian Kelly wielded a bit of his lately when the Notre Dame coach wouldn’t release freshman defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes from of his letter-of-intent, meaning the player can indeed enroll at his desired school (UCLA), but will lose a year of eligibility in doing so.
Kelly tweeted that his decision was to protect the integrity of the letter-of-intent program.
You know, sort of like the integrity Kelly showed by bolting as head coach of Cincinnati in December 2009 before its Sugar Bowl game.
None of this will change. Coaches will continue to hold hostage players who want to transfer, and the letter-of-intent program will continue to give all power to the university, creating a ridiculous imbalance of power between the school and athlete.
It’s a sad reality. An incredibly flawed one.
But, hey, as long as Bob Stoops gets that running back to think twice about transferring …
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.