May 3, 2014 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Coaches' Gentleman's Agreement Remains As Is, For Now

But Some Coaches May Not Abide

by Mike McMahon and Adam Wodon/CHN Reporter

The so-called "Gentleman's Agreement" — an agreement between coaches to not recruit each other's players once those players have verbally committed — was upheld at last week's American Hockey Coaches Association Convention in Naples, Fla. However, how long that's the case, remains in question.

Minnesota coaches, who have stated a preference against the agreement in recent years, asked that the issue be introduced to the agenda, which it was.

According to sources, coaches then voted approximately 3-to-1 to uphold the agreement. There were also amendments that were shot down, such as recognizing verbal commitments only once a player reached senior year of high school.

In the course of discussion, sources say, Minnesota and "a number of big schools" suggested they may not adhere to the Gentlemen's Agreement anymore, and only abide by the NCAA's Letter of Intent. That, actually, has been a sentiment expressed numerous times over the last half-dozen years or more, but has not necessarily been carried out.

Officially, however, the Gentleman's Agreement on verbal commits remains the same.

According to Nate Leaman, head coach at Providence who chaired the coaches' discussion this year, things never got heated, and the discussion was typical of what happens every year at the Convention.

"We get up and voice our opinion," Leaman said. "We come here to get an agreement. We talk about it, and move forward from there."

The original headline for this article suggested that there was a "mutiny" among coaches, but Leaman said that is inaccurate.

"I'm disappointed with the word 'mutiny,'" Leaman said. "(This is) what (always) happens here. We come down here and discuss issues.

"It's good this is being covered, but we want to make sure it's accurate."

The Grand Forks Herald reported, however, the discussions were "intense."

"I think it's gotten out of hand," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said recently about recruiting. "There's not only (player) decommitments, there's schools de-committing players at the same time. I'm not sure that's good for anybody, and hopefully we can get back to the point where there's no such thing as a commitment until a kid's a senior in high school. Because what's going on now with ninth and 10th graders — who knows who the coach will be, who knows who your teammates are going to be. And in the long run, it's not good for anyone that all of a sudden kids decommit, or all of a sudden the school no longer wants the player."

One assistant coach said: "(Minnesota doesn't) seem to be into stealing a bunch of kids. (It) seems to be more of a loud statement than anything else. No one else had the (guts) to say (it wouldn't adhere to the agreement) in front of the group while we all know a couple teams where almost half their roster are kids that had been committed somewhere. That's the direction we are heading."

A Letter of Intent cannot be signed until fall of a student-athlete's senior year of high school. If teams adhere only to the Letter of Intent, players would be fair game before that, even if verbally committed. Schools are generally allowed to contact players starting their sophomore year of high school.

As it stands, there have already been many cases in recent years where players have de-committed to one school and gone to another. Whether that decision is driven by the player, his family, or behind-the-scenes recruiting, depends on the situation and who you ask.

At this point, there is no guarantee, given their own statements, that all schools will continue to adhere to the Agreement. There's been questions in recent years whether that's already the case, though nothing has been official.

The agreement was originally made to prevent a Wild West atmosphere, where teams could pilfer players that other teams had already recruited.

One problem, however, is that in recent years, many coaches complained the agreement was being used as a cover to stockpile players, many of which would never wind up playing for that team, and are then left in the cold.

Ivy League schools don't adhere to the Letter of Intent or give athletic scholarships. That creates, at the same time, a risk, but also an opportunity to stockpile as many players as they want.

Internally, there are coaches who have criticized some schools for stockpiling. Certainly not all Ivy League schools, and certainly not just Ivy League schools have been criticized of the practice.

Players also "de-commit" more regularly now than in the past, which puts teams at risk.

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