Todd Monken’s abrupt departure from Southern Miss for the offensive coordinator vacancy with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers underscores college sports’ double standards held for athletes and coaches.
Monken’s NFL opportunity is well-deserved. He inherited a Southern Miss team coming off a winless 2012, and by his third season, had the Golden Eagles in the Conference USA Championship Game. I can’t begrudge Monken’s ascent up the coaching ranks, and I even admire new Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter’s bold choice of a longtime air-raid and spread coach for an NFL offense.
The timing, however, is atrocious.
College athletes are held to various and clearly defined deadlines. The deadline to declare for this spring’s NFL draft passed Jan. 15, just last week. A football player’s college career begins with a key deadline, the first Wednesday of February. That’s national signing day, the first date on which a prospect can sign his national letter of intent, and for those unaware, that’s just one week away.
Todd Monken left Southern Miss less than two weeks removed from high schoolers and junior-college transfers signing a document that can only be broken through extenuating circumstances. Coaching contracts are broken all the time. Ironic, isn’t it?
Athletes are so beholden to deadlines, the NCAA’s decision to allow for multiple tests of the NBA waters, announced last week, was landmark.
Students can also enter NBA draft multiple times without jeopardizing eligibility & participate in combine & 1 tryout per NBA team per year.
— NCAA (@NCAA) January 13, 2016
West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins lamented the NCAA’s new rule.
“Sometimes we make rules that are good for individuals that aren’t good for the whole,” he said, via The Kansas City Star. “I thought we should always do what is right for the whole team.”
Huggins’ advocacy of “what is right for the whole team” speaks to the limbo in which delayed professional decisions put programs — specifically coaches tasked with recruiting.
Nevertheless, coaches can now adjust for a new deadline when mapping out their recruiting strategy. But how does a program brace itself for an abrupt coaching change without warning?
NFL’s coaching carousel typically turns at the conclusion of the regular season, which is early January. That’s about a month after the ideal job market time in college football, but it does afford an athletic department a full month before national signing day.
In the case of Southern Miss, however, it must find a replacement for Todd Monken who can begin recruiting immediately, and deliver signees in one week. How does one adjust in such a short window?
It’s a tough position in which to put a new coach, but even worse, it’s unfair to the remaining players. With as many deadlines as the NCAA has in place for its athletes, Todd Monken’s departure now stands as case-study 1-A in the need for coaching deadlines, too.
The NFL carousel is typically exactly one month out from national signing day. Move NSD back one week to the second Wednesday of February, and set a deadline one month earlier in which college coaches can no longer move. Doing so constitutes a breach of contract.
Such a rule marks one step toward holding coaches to the same standard at which athletes are held.