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Letter Of Intent "Going By The Wayside?" One Should Hope Not

Because what big-time college ball really needs is to invite more of this behavior.
Because what big-time college ball really needs is to invite more of this behavior.

Interesting article by FOTP* Brian Cook over at TSB, titled The Letter of Intent Is Going By The Wayside, And None Too Soon. We're not going to fisk it, because it's not blather, but it does merit some discussion and disagreement. Money quote:

The letter of intent is great for coaches. It locks the player into your school and prevents anyone else from offering him financial aid. It does almost nothing for players. In exchange for locking themselves in, players are guaranteed one—one!—year of scholarship money and room and board. In most cases this is an acceptable tradeoff for players, but what if the coach you signed up for gets axed? What if you've committed to a team that may or may not get hammered by the NCAA infractions committee? What if you're a high level recruit who's going to get a spot somewhere, anywhere? In that case, signing a letter of intent makes no sense.

Cook also notes that football has no one-and-done threats, so LOI holdouts are even rarer on the gridiron than in basketball. He also claims that "all [Seantrel] Henderson did is lock himself into a situation that might turn unpleasant." And to be fair, the notion that Seantrel locked himself into a situation that might turn unpleasant is absolutely, 100% true.

What Brian doesn't acknowledge at any point along the way is that the LOI provides one crucial benefit: it ends the recruiting process. That's no small matter. Ask any family that's been inundated with mail and phone calls from prospective colleges. Does anybody really want to have their dinner interrupted by some creepily-caring reporter looking for an update on a kid's top five... for eight months straight? Why prolong that process any longer than it's allowed to be already?   

Further, Cook says guys like DeMarcus Cousins and Henderson are the players who benefit the least from an LOI. But if they're among the most intensely pursued targets in their entire class, that pursuit is an enormous disruption to their families. Well, unless they get to enjoying the attention, as some recruits and their families do. They, of course, may feel free to stay unsigned as long as they'd like, but these people are generally insane and not to be trusted.

If the argument is that an LOI should automatically become unbinding in the case of coach departure or NCAA sanctions, then we're all for it; certainly, we can all agree that there's no reason for a player to be locked into a suddenly worse or more volatile situation before he even enrolls as a student. The fact that that doesn't constitute a breach of contract means the LOI needs to be substantially overhauled.

It does not, however, mean that the LOI needs to go away entirely; that would only encourage more borderline-harassment from both coaches and the press alike. The recruiting game is sketchy enough as it is.  

*Friend Of The Pants, of course.