“Wearing these colors, representing this state, representing these high school coaches and the people of the fine state of Pennsylvania is what I want to do for a very, very long time.” In the world of college football, statements like these are the convention; loyalty and commitment to the program are the ultimate virtues, the vaunted declarations of allegiance. They are fundamental, biological even: “Oh, you bleed garnet and gold? I bleed orange and green.”
But fickle commitments and loopholes are abound in the world of college football. The statements are just words, not a contract or guarantee.
These displays of commitment and loyalty are mangled into grammatical debates about words withheld rather than words said. Assumptions have become more important than assertions, and loopholes have become big enough to not just jump through, but to parade through. On floats.
Just last week, Al Golden made his future job prospects clear: “I am appreciative of just what we have here at UM, and I am not a candidate for another position.” At least, he was clear to the casual college football fan. The most astute, though? Sure, he may not have been a candidate right then, but what if Penn State simply had not offered the job yet? Not to worry. “I’m here, and I plan to be a coach at the University of Miami,” he said.
Do you see it there, the loophole? Careful, do not fall in. Coach Golden planned to be at the University of Miami, but as it is with plans, they are apt to change, sometimes because of bad weather, a flight cancellation, or even an unexpected job offer to be the 16th head coach of your alma mater’s historic football team. Thankfully, Coach Golden’s plans did not change, and he will remain our football coach. But that does not mean that they could not have changed.
And that is the problem. These loopholes are rampant, and the moral adjudicator overseeing it all, the NCAA, allows this to be so—for coaches. Coaching contracts and subsequent extensions are merely suggestions of employment without penalty for the would-be violators, the grownup leaders of young men who preach ad nauseam to “put the program first.” Players, however, are definitively bound to the letters of intent that they sign when they are just 17 and 18 years old—break their word, and the NCAA’s moralistic enforcement staff reigns upon them, taking away for a year the very thing that may have paved their way to college in the first place.
But what about the players who, when deciding which school to play for, relied on the promises made by the coaches they invited into their homes? Or the players’ parents, who look across their tables into the eyes of the men whom they are trusting to shepherd their sons through these crucial four years of not only football, but also life? The NCAA says: Get over it.
So, “Representing these high school coaches and the people of the fine state of Pennsylvania is what I want to do for a very, very long time.” That is the coach Penn State did hire, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin. “This is my dream job,” he said, “this is where I want to be.”
Well, until the NFL comes calling. No need to tell his players that, though; they will be left behind anyway.
Corey Janson is a senior majoring in psychology and political science.