KPB Blog

Dealing with a Coaching Change as a Recruit or College Player

The coaching carousel seems to get crazier each year with many college coaches changing jobs at the end of the season. An unfortunate side effect in this big game of musical chairs is the players and recruits who are left without the coach who recruited them. These players often have to deal with substantial changes within their program. So, what are you supposed to do if the coach who recruited you leaves? In this article, we explore ways to mitigate the impact if a coaching change happens to you and what options you have after the coaching change.

How to Minimize the Impact of an Unexpected Coaching Change

Since having a coach leave is completely outside your control, the best thing you can do to minimize the impact that these unexpected changes have on your college experience is to make sure that the school you choose to play for is a fit for more reasons than just the coach. While the coaching staff should be a big reason you choose a program, it should only be one piece of the puzzle. If you choose a program solely because of a single coach, you will always be vulnerable to that coach leaving for any number of reasons. However, if you choose a program because, for example, you like the culture of the baseball program, it has the major you want, it’s located in a place where you want live, you like the current players, it’s the level of competition you want, and you like the coach and his coaching style, even if there’s an unexpected coaching change, there are still many things about the program that still fit. The all holistic program and school fit is always going to be your best defense against the unexpected. This is one of many reasons we encourage finding a school and program that fit the criteria that are most important to you. As an additional precautionary measure, you should also make sure you are getting to know all the coaches on the coaching staff at any program you are considering, not just the one who leads the recruiting effort.

Your Coach Leaves When You Are Already Enrolled in School

If you are already enrolled as a player at a school when the coach leaves, you have one of two options: stay there and see how it goes with the new coach or transfer. Changes to NCAA D1 transfer rules have made it easier for players to transfer if a coach leaves, but there are still many restrictions and hoops to jump through. We detail the transfer changes here. The decision to transfer schools should not be taken lightly and changing schools can come with many complications. This difficult decision again highlights why it’s so important to seek out a school that truly fits the experience you want the first time around.

A Coach Leaves When You Are a Signed Recruit

An NLI’s binds a player to the institution (not the coach) for one academic year. Even if the coach leaves before you get to campus, it can be very difficult to get out of your NLI agreement without penalty and you are likely to have to spend a year at the program where you signed your NLI or attend a non-NLI participating school. The one-time transfer rule has made things easier, but it’s still best to go right to the source for information. For more information about the NLI program, being released from an NLI, and NLI penalties, visit here.

A Coach Leaves When You Are Verbally Committed 

If the head coach leaves the program where you have a verbal commitment, it’s likely that all bets are off for your handshake agreement. If an assistant coach that recruited you leaves a program where you have a verbal commitment, you should immediately check with the head coach to make sure the financials of your current verbal agreement remain unchanged. Either way, if your feelings about the program change substantially because of the departure, you are free to open your recruitment back up at any time. Verbal commitments are not binding and you are free to decommit and re-engage with other schools at any time. You will not want to start shopping yourself around to other programs while you are still committed, this is a major no-no. Wait until you have decommitted and notified the remaining coaches on staff of your intention to open your recruitment back up. Players who shop themselves around while still committed to a program burn bridges in the baseball community quickly and can put themselves in an unfavorable position moving forward or get a negative label that is hard to get rid of.

Concluding Thoughts

While no player plans on having a coaching change during their recruitment or college playing career, it’s more likely than ever that you will face this type of adversity in some form or fashion. It’s rare that an entire coaching staff stays together for 4+ years, so you should ask a lot of questions and choose programs/schools carefully. Selecting a program based on best fit, exploring your options until you are sure you are ready to commit, and getting to know all the coaches at programs you are considering will help to minimize the impact of a coach departing unexpectedly.