June 28, 2012

NCAA Athletic Department Leadership?

On a number of occasions, both on collegevolleyballcoach.com and Inside College Volleyball, I have written about The One and Done recruiting mentality.  Unfortunately, this new mentality has mutated into The None and Done.

As a quick review, The One and Done is where an incoming player is cut from the program after one season of collegiate play because they did not live up to the skill expectations of the coach.  The None and Done, is where early verbally committed players are not being sent the National Letter of Intent as Seniors (the document which binds the player and school) because the player has not developed at an anticipated pace.  This is the quick version of these terms and can be understood better by clicking the Labels links or reading Inside College Volleyball.

Because I am in the middle of doing a number of my Volleyball Road Camps, I have a lot of time to think as I am driving between schools and I was pondering why this system has come into common use.  When I write about these new protocols, I am talking in broad terms and don't want to suggest that all coaches operate in these terms.  But, it is a mentality which is being adopted by more and more collegiate coaches of all playing categories.

The Final Score is that the Athletic Directors have vacated their leadership role, and abandoned the role of collegiate athletics.

While it is easy to lay blame upon the collegiate coaches for the recruiting/player management trend of The One and Done, the coaches would not do this unless the Athletic Directors allowed it.  There was a bit of a snowball effect to this trend. A couple of schools were known within the collegiate coaching circles for moving players off their rosters who could not potentially start by their sophomore year.  One by one, more college coaches started using this same roster management technique, and as more coaches saw their peer being able to yearly adjust their roster, the more joined the parade.

As the recruiting process moved into a very early stance with evaluating PSA's and extending scholarship offers to Sophomores, then Freshman, it created the environment where a certain percentage of these early committed PSA's were naturally not going to get much better. Some PSA's look to have big potential, but in reality, they only get a bit better from their Sophomore to Senior year.  In the past, coaches were hesitant to extend early scholarships just in case what we saw (big potential as a Freshman/Sophomore) was not the reality (of a Senior).  With the development of The None and Done, collegiate coaches don't even need to worry about having an unproductive player on their collegiate roster.

You may ask, "How can the coach move players off the roster, or not even honor verbal scholarship offers, and still keep winning?".  Two answers, 1) There is more Volleyball talent now, than at any time in the past.  Elite International Student-Athletes are abundant and the USA is still the world's bright light.  High School and Club Volleyball is growing, and especially so as the southeastern United States discovers that the sport is a great opportunity for their female athletes.  Junior College Volleyball is becoming a prime recruiting ground for NCAA coaches because they can recruit seasoned players, who are more mature and academically established.  2)  As long as the to be cut Student-Athlete is eligible to compete the next season, there is no NCAA APR penalty for cutting the player.  These two situations allow coaches to cut current SA's, and not honor verbal commitments to PSA's because there is no NCAA consequences, and the talent pool will provide a better volleyball player immediately.

That is the rational or logic for the development and utilization of The One and Done, and now The None and Done of collegiate recruiting and volleyball.  But, while blame should be laid upon the coaches, the ultimate responsibility of this environment being allowed to exist and propagate is the Athletic Directors.

They are the director's of the Athletic Department, they are the final say about how a program operates.  When I first became a collegiate coach, you only cut a player if they had repeatedly broken team rules, or embarrassed the school in some significant manner.  These 'removal from the team' instances were all for behavioral issues, and negative behaviors which were demonstrated on many occasions.

There was no way any of my earlier Athletic Directors would allow a coach to cut a player for ability, and if I remember correctly, the NCAA rules were distinct in saying that a player's scholarship could not be terminated or reduced because of ability (or lack of).  The Athletic Directors conveyed the (now ancient) philosophy that if we coaches overrated a PSA, then it was our job to develop the skills and at least develop a practice player.  And even before the PSA arrived to campus, once a verbal commitment was made between the player and the school (for which the college coach is the representative), this commitment was honored no matter how well, or not, the player developed or if there was a coaching change.

In my memory of my early athletic departments, the Athletic Directors set the tone that integrity mattered.  Winning and losing were just part of the equation, not the bottom line of collegiate athletics.  Following NCAA rules, treating the student-athletes and fellow coaches with respect, athletics as part of the experience of being associated with institutions of higher learning were all championed.  Winning was a by product of doing things the right way and Athletic Directors would not tolerate winning at the expense of doing things the right way.  Today, they tolerate and encourage it.

Why the change?  I believe it is because the Athletic Directors have developed tunnel vision - Their entire focus is on the bottom line of revenue......more and more athletic directors have never played collegiate sports, ever.  They are money managers, and as money managers, they don't know the sweat and challenge and joy and pain and sacrifice and tears and camaraderie of being a collegiate student athlete and/or collegiate coach.

The current Athletic Director's job is dependent upon staying under budget and if at all possible, making money for the university.  This is how their compensation is structured, and this is how they have job security.  The dollar sign is what gets the attention, what is always managed.  Everything now relates directly to this bottom line.  It is no longer about student-athletes and coaches, it is about ticket sales, television exposure, marketing deals, staff salaries, contract buyouts.

Student-Athletes have become pawns in the money of collegiate athletics - Any doubt of this, all you need to do is read the dollar amounts being bandied about with the new National Championship format for football.  With the exception of Football and Basketball, all other collegiate coaches have also become pawns in the system; we may have always been pawns, but at least the old school athletic directors had the decency to not make it blatantly obvious.

How does this affect today's VolleyFamilies?  First of all, you need to understand the new reality of athletics, and everything is viewed through the prism of budgets because the Athletic Directors, as the gate keepers, value this element above all else.

Protect yourself by making sure you are doing exemplary research about the school, the athletic department and the volleyball program/coach when you are going through the recruiting process.  Too many families don't do their research, they are still operating under the athletic's mentality of 10 years ago, and they pay the price of family heartache when their daughter gets cut.  

Once you are on campus as a student-athlete, conduct yourself both on and off the court perfectly.  Don't provide the coach the rational to cut you by your actions or lack of.  Make sure your grades and unit counts are at their highest, so if everything blows up, you are well on your way to obtaining your degree.

Understand that the new protocols for college volleyball recruiting and administration were created by the coaches, but allowed to exist and manifest by the Athletic Directors.  Because the Athletic Directors have given their tacit approval to this protocol, VolleyFamilies have no safety net.

7 comments:

  1. AnonymousJune 28, 2012

    How are VolleyFamilies supposed to keep track of the coaches who have adopted the one-and-done or none-and-done philosophies? I would think that if it were known that the coach of Giant College were pulling the none-and-done stunt on PSA's then the PSA's would avoid committing to that school like a plague.

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  2. Families have to review the rosters (which can be found on the program webpages) to see how many changes there are each year, then follow up with specific questions about why underclassmen are no longer on the team.

    And, Families don't think it can happen to them.

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  3. AnonymousJune 30, 2012

    Sites like PrepVolleyball do a good job at announcing verbal commitments but you never see when these aren't honored. Volley Families are at a distinct informational disadvantage. Those same Proud Parents who are quick to spread the word of their Darling Daughters VC seem also to be the last to admit that their DD was passed over after-the-fact. By keeping such information to themselves, they don't place the spotlight on the coach who diss'd them. It would be a good way to get even but it seems their ego can't take it.

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  4. AnonymousJuly 02, 2012

    I'd like to know more about those athletes that are let go? Are they still marketable? Is it super difficult for those recently released one-and-dones to get other colleges to consider them? I'd like to hear a follow up on the aftermath such action has on these girls. How devastating it must be for them and their families. What a threat to the remaining SA's on that team. Seems as though a decision by a Coach to oust players instead of helping to develop them would erode the confidence level of every remaining player on that team and have nothing but a negative effect in the end.

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  5. My estimation is that the majority of released athletes will find another school to play at, but because of the very early nature of today's recruiting, combined with the various transfer unit counts required by potential schools, the choices available to these released athletes are limited. As you referenced, the emotional impact is significant because the SA and Family has invested heavily, only to be told good bye. One would think programs doing this would suffer, but it is not the case; they just find new players because the new players are naive and will believe whatever spin the program puts on releasing players.

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  6. Our family went through this with our oldest daughter, and the chances of it happening probably get exacerbated with a coaching change. My oldest daughter passed up full-ride offers for a 2/4 opportunity with her dream school. The coach she committed to left before she reported for her freshman year, and the new coach made it clear he was going a different direction. Although she was a solid teammate and got a 3.7 GPA during the Fall quarter of her freshman red-shirt year, after the season he told her that he was shrinking the roster and that there wasn't a spot for her (even though he told us directly that she'd always have a spot on the team). To answer one of the questions above, at least some of these kids are marketable (maybe especially when a coaching change is involved). She had over 60 schools express interest in her transferring, but it was her dream school, she'd made friends and wasn't interested in starting all over so she retired from volleyball. We're just starting the recruiting process with my class of '14 daughter. How to trust a coach and an athletic department now is a huge issue we're trying to figure out. We've been given indication that she's likely to have offers before next year's Vegas tournament (her Junior year), but we're struggling with whether we can allow her to commit if she decides she wants to, versus the risk of losing the spot on a school she really likes if she puts it off. One of the things that I'm focusing on right now if how long the coach has been there and really focusing on new coaches. My thinking is that if he's been a big winner than chances are he'll move up to a bigger program, if she's a loser than she won't be around when my daughter arrives in two years. At least if they're new in the job maybe there's some benefit to being in the coach's first class and he/she might not have enough time to be good/bad enough to get promoted/fired before my daughter has at least a couple of college seasons under her belt. Coach, does that thought process make any sense to you?

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  7. Unfortunately, college volleyball has settled into a roll of the dice; not only for parents but for coaches. As the life the head coach has become more unstable, so have the lives of the players and recruits. The job security of a coach can change in one month, even if they are 'successful' because of AD changes and budget shifts - Not too many coaches have the security blanked of a high salaried contract. It is cheap and easy to switch college volleyball coaches. Best advice I can give any person today, is what folks have said all along; pick the school because of the school. As primary as volleyball can feel, it can switch in an instant, but the school environment will remain the same. Pick the best academic/geographic/comfortable school possible and pray that volleyball goes well.

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