If University of Louisville receivers coach Lamar Thomas is leaving to do the same job at the University of Kentucky, the first question is why?
The question of when, though, is almost as interesting.
That the story leaked two days before national signing day suggests, at a minimum, strategic timing. That neither UK nor U of L had officially confirmed Thomas’ move as of 5 p.m Monday might indicate that the deal wasn’t quite done.
But given the recent history of big-time recruiting, it’s easy to imagine other possibilities. College football coaches often schedule their job changes to occur immediately after signing day, sometimes without sharing that information with the players they sign.
That practice is deceptive and dishonorable but so common that former Texas coach Mack Brown has called for a college football lemon law, a one-week grace period for signed players to change their minds in the event their head coach, position coach or primary recruiter takes another job.
Last year, Ohio State running backs coach Stan Drayton left for a job with the Chicago Bears the day after signing day, prompting a pained Tweet by prime recruit Mike Weber: “I’m hurt as hell I ain’t gone lie.”
Texas recruit Du’Vonta Lumpkin felt similarly duped when Longhorns’ defensive line coach Chris Rumph left for Florida on a similarly suspicious timetable. “Guess I was lied to in my face,” Lumpkin wrote.
If Lamar Thomas leaves, it is unlikely to elicit so much bitterness. Monday afternoon, Louisville insiders were quick to minimize Thomas’ contributions to this year’s recruiting class.Still, the lack of transparency about his plans raises concerns, and follows a pattern all too familiar for followers of cutthroat recruiting.
That the NCAA has yet to address the practice of signing players under the false pretenses of fleeing coaches reinforces the perception that the organization exists to protect its member schools at the expense of students. It also reinforces the argument that elite players should avoid binding letters of intent and limit their signatures to financial aid documents that cannot constrain their eligibility should they decide to enroll at a different school.
This was the approach coveted linebacker Roquan Smith took last year, an approach that served him well. Though Smith made a televised announcement of his intention to play at UCLA, he succeeded in withholding his signature. When UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich left for a job with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, Smith switched to Georgia without needing anyone’s approval but his own.
Not every recruit wields as much leverage as did Roquan Smith, who was ranked as the nation’s No. 6 outside linebacker prospect by Rivals.com. Still, every recruit deserves the right to change his mind if he’s been duped into signing by coaches with one foot out the door.
Tim Sullivan can be reached at (502) 582-4650, firstname.lastname@example.org or @TimSullivan714 on Twitter.
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