Less than a month after suspending Art Briles with the intent to terminate, which eventually became just terminating Art Briles, Baylor has released five of the highest-rated recruits in program history. A number of people are angry Baylor did not release these players immediately. While others are mad Baylor released anybody. Although people are entitled to believe whatever they want, Baylor made the correct decision.
Since May 26th, Baylor has gone through the following: a new president, a new athletic director, a new head football coach, potential lawsuits with its past coach(the response filed by Briles counsel was not a lawsuit, but it set the grounds for one before Baylor and Briles settled), and a list that could continue. During that time, Baylor lacked stability. The school and program wanted the chance to argue that where Baylor was in late May and early June would not be where Baylor would end up going forward.
Coach Grobe and Baylor asked for what they dubbed a cooling off period. There was no chance the talented players Baylor signed were going to be left without a scholarship at another institution. Just about any school will find a scholarship for the talent Baylor was losing.
Baylor did win back at least one of the players that wanted a release. Jared Atkinson, a four-star recruit, ended up withdrawing his request for a release and is now heading to Baylor. Patrick Hudson, one of, if not the best offensive guard in the country, may still end up a Bear. Those players got the chance to hear Baylor’s pitch for a month, but they now have the right to head somewhere else.
Others argue Baylor should not have released these players. That would have been a mistake. Baylor would have been left with either having players who did not want to be at the school competing, which benefits no one, or Baylor would have made those students sit out a year. In that scenario, Baylor may have burned relationships with high school coaches, and Baylor also would have added another story line to deal with all season. Baylor football will not collapse because it loses five talented players. It could collapse if it has to deal with high school coaches angry at Baylor. I think either scenario is unlikely, but the benefit of having players that don’t want to attend Baylor was outweighed by the risk of harm to the program going forward.
The ultimate lesson from the LOI period is understanding where some people are coming from is often explainable. Parents of some of the players that asked for releases made comments that were often quite ludicrous. But those parents felt like they were defending their child and giving them the best shot to succeed. It’s understandable a parent may do anything for their son. Although I wish some things had been said differently, my life is not different, nor will I hate a teenager because of something a parent said during a chaotic summer in 2016.
For those that were outraged Baylor did not release these players sooner, those people should look deeper at their position. Almost all of the arguments about Baylor potentially requiring players stick to their LOIs were not specific to the Baylor situation. Instead, they boil down to what are broader criticisms of the NCAA. Players commit to an institution and are stuck there, unless they want to sit out a season. To me, until the players are paid, they should be free to transfer any season, and especially if a head coach is removed. That’s a radical position, but a lot of the criticism of the Baylor situation was about it being unfair players had a different head coach or it being unfair to force players to attend a school they don’t want to attend. I agree. I also agree that’s a bigger problems with the NCAA.
There are no NCAA penalties at Baylor right now. If those do come, the players will likely be able to transfer immediately. Tons of other institutions do not let players transfer simply for the loss of a head coach. If Texas fires Charlie Strong after this season- I don’t think that will happen, but it could happen if Texas has a terrible season - many Texas fans are not going to suddenly say, “These players committed to Charlie Strong, they should be free to go.” Instead, many will say the players committed to Texas. That’s not to say U.T. is unique in that viewpoint, but it’s to say almost everyone falls back on pointing out problems with how the NCAA is regulated in specific situations. They lambaste Brian Kelly or prepare to attack Baylor if players aren’t released. But if someone has the viewpoint players should be able to move freely, they should be attacking the NCAA going forward, not Baylor.
Baylor had the option to try and force five of its most highly-rated recruits to come to Baylor. The school allowed those players to leave and head to schools that may now defeat the Bears. But it was the right decision. Baylor gave these players a chance to go where they wanted to go. A month of waiting did not ruin anyone’s shot at going where they wanted, and letting those five players go will not ruin Baylor.