Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

"Coach-in-Waiting" to Come With a Price

Will Muschamp and Mack Brown

Looks like a new NCAA recruiting rule could significantly curtail the "coach-in-waiting" (CIW) trend that has become so popular in college football. The new rule dictates that CIWs will face the same restrictions as head coaches in recruiting activities.

Chip Brown of Texas fan site Orangebloods reported on the new regulations yesterday, which he claims have the Texas athletic department fuming. Brown himself indicates that the rule singles out Texas, one of two remaining CIW situations in the country. Obviously, the new rule will affect how Texas defensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp can participate in Texas' recruiting efforts.

The stated rationale behind the new rule, which was proposed by the Big East, seems fairly clear: If you're going to restrict head coach's access to recruits as a way to even the playing field, the same standards should apply to CIWs. In that sense, the rule seems to be in keeping with the NCAA's existing principles.

What about the practical implications?

The rule may represent an attempt to dis-incentivize the CIW strategy to keep major powers like Texas and Florida State from locking up assistant coaches with astronomical salaries and guarantees of succession. As such, it would help open up the pool of coaching candidates for college football's version of "small-market clubs" and possibly give schools more leverage in negotiations with coaching candidates. (Note that the proposal originated from the Big East.)

Clearly, one way around the rule would be to just offer CIW guarantees under the table. Without formal agreements, however, convincing recruits that an assistant will be taking over the program when the head coach steps down becomes more difficult. The certainty that the university will follow through on its promise, or that the assistant won't bolt for greener past pastures, decreases dramatically.

Also, the rule explicitly mentions that staff members who have been "publicly" designated as CIWs face the same restrictions as head coaches. That apparently leaves plenty of room for interpretation on the part of the NCAA. For example, what if the current head coach offers a recruit assurances that an assistant will take over when he retires? Would that constitute a "public" designation?

While the new rule certainly opens up questions about its interpretation and enforcement, it clearly makes coach-in-waiting agreements far less appealing. If the NCAA wanted to eliminate the practice altogether, this looks like a pretty good way to do it.