February 2, 2008

Verbal Offer and Commitment

Another good question from one of our readers:

What happens if a junior recruit has been offered a scholarship at a D1 univeristy and the coach leaves to go to another school before the recruit has verbally committed? Can the recruit still make a verbal commitment or does the offer die with the departing coach? If the recruit has verbally committed to the school and the old coach, does the new coach have to accept the verbal commitment or can they withdraw it? Jack

Sorry about your situation - An unfortunate by product of early offers/commitments and the mobility of coaches.

To answer your question - The scholarship offered was verbal and since there was not a commitment from the junior recruit, than that offer is done (it travelled with the coach). Had a verbal commitment been made, then a majority of departing coaches would inform their Athletic Director that they have received a verbal commitment. It then becomes the decision of the AD whether to tell the new coach to accept the commitment or to allow the new coach to make their own decision; most AD's will not force a new coach to accept a verbal commitment.

Verbal commitments are just that - a word of promise made between the player and the coach. The National Letter of Intent is the legal, signed contract that obligates the recruit and the school to each other - the letter specifically says that coaching changes do not affect the NLA.

If a verbal commitment has been made, the new coach is under no obligation to honor this commitment. Usually what happens, is that most coaches will evaluate the player (skills and attitude) to determine if that player is someone they want to have in the program - if the recruit is talented and has a good attitude, then odds are everything will work out fine.

My suggestion is to contact the new coach, let her/him know that the recruit very much likes the school and the program, so much so that she was about to verbally commit to the school. I would not put pressure upon the coach to re-offer the commitment, but rather to start a dialogue between both parties so the new coach can get to know the recruit and the recruit can get to know the coach!

We are seeing much more head coach mobility within college volleyball - This year must be a record year for job postings; not only head coaches, but a number of top flight assistant positions that will attract current head coaches to apply. I believe the mobility is being encouraged by the dissimilar compensation structures of schools - some pay suprisingly low, even though they are a recognizable national institution. Then, another nationally recognized institution, in a comparable league and in a comparable cost of living city, is going to salary thier head coach at $20,000.00 more; this disparity creates the motivation to change positions.

This affects the prospective student athlete (PSA) and the family because of the early recruiting time frame. By verbally committing to a school early in your Junior year, the PSA is effectively taking themselves off the recruiting market. While a family may want to have answered a very serious question (the child's college future), they risk the coach moving to another position before being able to sign the NLI.

Whenever possible, it is best to wait to provide a verbal commitment until after the college volleyball hiring season is finished. In general, the hiring season runs from December 1st through April. Right now we are in the peak of the interviews and hirings - you can see a number of new hires listed on the avca.org web page under Coaching Transactions. By the way, DO NOT pay attention to any of the message or chat boards that talk about coaching positions, they are wrong many, many more times than they are right (until after the fact).

If you cannot wait until March/April to make a commitment, then please keep a contact list of your top schools as a safety net. Worse case, if your future coach jumps to another school, immediately contact those other schools that you were very interested in to inform them that you are available again because the coach left State U.