Athletic Recruiting Coach Communication College Recruiting For Coaches

How to Handle When A Coach Leaves Your Program


It’s a tough circumstance: the coach you have committed to playing for, or perhaps the coach you’ve been playing for, is leaving your school.

No matter what the reason a coach is leaving, this can be a really stressful situation for a student-athlete or recruit seriously considering that school; whether it’s out of sheer disappointment, because you were excited to play for him or her, or out of fear for your roster spot or playing time, there are many emotions that come with learning your head coach, (or even an assistant coach), is no longer going to be part of your program.

The USC Trojans have been making headlines this week for this exact reason, as their head football coach Steve Sarkisian has been asked to take a leave of absence. Whether you’re a Trojan fan or not, it’s a really sad circumstance for Coach Sarkisian, the university, and most of all, the players on his team.

But once the confusion, disappointment, or anger settles for a student-athlete, what are the options available?

The NCAA has rules in place for when a coach leaves your program.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon situation NCAA teams find themselves in.

From coaches getting fired, to taking a new offer at a different school, to getting put on leave, there are many different reasons a coach may end his or her tenure at a school.

The NCAA offers this Transfer Toolkit for the exact rules about trasnferring as a particular type of student-athlete, within a particular division.

What you will find in the Toolkit is going to keep with this general rule, however. No matter what the reasoning, once you have signed a National Letter of Intent (an NLI) or have started playing your sport as a collegiate scholarship student-athlete, transferring from one school to another can be a complicated process with many steps and stipulations.

Not impossible — but complicated.

There are certain ways to appeal your circumstance.

Now, there are certain situations where a college will grant exceptions once an appeal waiver has been submitted. And any reason for transfer – including a coach leaving a program – requires an appeal process once a student-athlete has signed an NLI or has started playing at a school.

I’ve seen many in the industry disagree with the current rule that a student-athlete who hasn’t even set foot on the campus, but has signed an NLI, is bound to that school — even if the coach that recruited them leaves before their freshman year — but as long as the rule is the rule, it’s the case.

When a coach leaves your program, remember: you sign with a school, not a coach.

The most important piece of information to gather from any of the above? At the end of the day, you are signing with a school, not a coach.

It may seem unfair, and it may be nerve-wrecking, but it’s imperative to keep in mind that if for some reason your coach leaves your school, there is no guarantee you will be able to transfer, or at the very least, transfer without penalty.

This is why we talk so much about finding the right fit academically, athletically and socially with a school. Make sure you love your teammates, your campus, your academic life, and all the other things that fall in between before signing with a school.

Because realistically, it should never be all about the coach.

We can help you understand the complexities of finding the right college fit for you academically, athletically and socially. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.

About the author
Laura Chmiel

Laura Chmiel is a marketing coordinator and a lead writer for NCSA Athletic Recruiting. As someone with a passion for athletics and education, she graduated from Indiana university with a B.S. in Elementary Education. After school, she gained first-hand experience helping student-athletes and their families get to college.