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Wednesday, January 16, 2013
USC should release its 2013 recruits

By Dave Telep

The Southern Cal Trojans fired their head basketball coach, Kevin O’Neill, on Monday. Midseason firings are typically reserved for pro sports, but we’re beginning to get accustomed to them on the college football and basketball sides.

The midseason college firings simply reinforce the notion of what the bottom line is in big-time college athletics: winning. I get that. At some point, you accept the fact that major college sports are a lot closer to pro sports than they are amateur athletics.

Over at USC, athletic director Pat Haden is planning his next move. Typically, coaches are hired following the completion of the season, which often culminates in the week leading up to and the week after the Final Four. That means the Trojans’ job may be open until early April.

Haden’s head start on his coaching search is great for his program but bad for the five Class of 2013 recruits who signed up to be Trojans in November.

Kendal Harris
ESPN 100 point guard and Texas native Kendal Harris is the top recruit signed to USC in the Class of 2013.
Kendal Harris, Roschon Prince, Julian Jacobs, Nikola Jovanovic and Kahlil Dukes don’t have the same opportunities that Haden does. Bound by their national letters of intent, they are in an unfortunate holding pattern if they want to wait until USC makes its hire before deciding whether to try to get out of their letters of intent. (Since all five have signed, they would have to be released from their letters by USC to play elsewhere without having to sit out.)

But that could be April.

My question is this: Why does Haden get to do his homework but the signees are stuck? They still have up to two months of basketball remaining. During that time they should be afforded the opportunity to forge new relationships with their future coach and take their time in evaluating their college options just as Haden looks at his.

These kids should be immediately let out of their letters of intent so they can move on with their recruiting process and make a great college decision instead of being rushed into one later in the spring.

If a player was released from his letter now, he could spend a few months gauging interest from other teams, forging new relationships and making visits. Instead, he’s handcuffed as USC gets to do all of those things while searching for its new coach.

Southern Cal didn’t just fire its basketball coach -- it fired the coach these guys committed to. Let’s not kid ourselves: In 2013, recruits commit mainly to coaches -- not schools -- despite what the national letter of intent process wants us to believe.

One chance we have to lower the national transfer rate is to allow recruits to make better decisions. These kids should have the right to seek the best opportunities for themselves immediately, just as USC is doing. They shouldn’t have to go through the recruiting “drive thru” and make hasty decisions based on false relationships in the spring.

It’s time to talk about this, get it out there and ask for change. This one is a no-brainer: If a coach is fired midseason, his recruits should be immediately released from their letters of intent.

Allowing this would afford them the chance to make better college decisions for themselves and their schools. When they signed on the dotted line, they didn’t know this would happen in the middle of their senior season, after they’ve made one of the biggest decisions of their life.

Now let’s help them out, free them from the bond of the LOI and let them begin the process over -- while there’s still time.