Jagodzinski Controversy Overshadowed Plight of Recruits

ft__d538_t600A few weeks ago, the standoff between Boston College Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo and his handpicked Head Coach, Jeff Jagodzinski was the hot topic in collegiate sports law.  DeFilippo and BC were applauded for standing firm and firing Jagodzinski for interviewing for the New York Jets head coaching vacancy.  Jagodzinski became the characterization of the modern coach, who believes contracts are a one-way street.  But while BC may have played the victim in this scenario, colleges and universities are quite familiar with unequal bargaining power in a contractual context.  Just ask the players that these colleges and universities recruit.

College recruits often sign National Letters of Intent (NLI), pledging to attend a particular college and university.  Josh Wright on the blog  Truth on the Market, explains:

The NLI gives the school the option of allowing a player who wishes to leave to do so without penalty. The default, however, is that the school does not release the player. The student-athlete can still transfer of course, but must incur the penalty of sitting out a full year at his next school plus losing a year of eligibility.

For a recruit there are advantages to signing a NLI.  By way of the NLI, the school is bound to the athlete and cannot withdraw the scholarship offer.  The NLI also prohibits other schools from contacting the recruit, ending what can become a time-consuming recruiting process.

However, the NLI includes a major disadvantage, especially considering the virtual free agency within which coaches operate.   Provision No. 19 states:

I understand I have signed this NLI with the institution and not for a particular sport or individual. If the coach leaves the institution or the sports program (or is not retained), I remain bound by the provisions of this NLI.  I understand it is not uncommon for a coach to leave his or her coaching position.

This provision is at odds with the reality of the college coaching profession.  Although schools are reluctant to acknowledge this fact, players often pick a school by the coach.  While the coach is free to leave for the next best job that presents itself, the player can only escape from his or her commitment with the consent of the school.  Perhaps worse, when recruits have sought to add more equitable terms to the NLI, schools have balked (See Wright’s post regarding DeMarcus Cousins).

At the highest level of collegiate athletics, recruiting and coaching are big business.  Mistakes on either front can set a school back competitively and financially.  But when collegiate administrators complain about the unequal bargaining rights with coaches, it represents no more than schools finding themselves on the wrong end of a business transaction – an inequity that often reverses itself when schools deal with their recruits.

For more on NLIs, see this article by Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis.


  1. […] Huskies.  But the event brings up a question that was recently covered on Connecticut Sports Law (Jagodzinksi Controversy Overshadowed Plight of Recruits): why would recruits sign a National Letter of […]

  2. […] Jagodzinski Controversy Overshadowed Plight of Recruits […]

  3. […] Jagodzinski Controversy Overshadowed Plight of Recruits […]

  4. […] Jagodzinski Controversy Overshadowed Plight of Recruits LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); LD_AddCustomAttr("LangId", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Autotag", "sports"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Autotag", "basketball"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "connecticut-sports-recruiting"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "parents-student-athletes"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "national-letter-of-intent"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "national-signing-day"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "nli"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "nli-signing-dates"); LD_AddSlot("wpcom_below_post"); LD_GetBids(); Share this:FacebookTwitterPrintEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Filed Under: Connecticut Sports Recruiting, Parents & Student-Athletes Tagged With: National Letter of Intent, National Signing Day, NLI, NLI Signing Dates « West Virginia Sues Big East Seeking its Freedom […]

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