Traveling coaches leave recruits holding the ball

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- -- After Orlando got its man, after Billy Donovan got his millions, after Gainesville got its hug goodbye and after the media got two news conferences 90 miles apart, Adam Allen got the only thing coming to him.

A phone call.


"I was out and couldn't take it," the Milton High senior said.

Donovan left a message.


"He said what everyone from [Florida] is saying, that they're going to hire the best coach for the job, don't panic, everyone's going to be happy," said Allen, who is part of an incoming recruiting class that rated tops in the basketball nation. "That's what they're all supposed to say, I guess."

The kid's not in college yet and already it sounds like he's got an education. Actually, he's still getting it. Another lesson is coming soon.

"I definitely want to go to Florida, but if things don't work out with the new coach, I'll get my release and go to another school," Allen said.

Uh, no.

"I think I can do that," he said.

You can't.

"I think I can," he said.

No recruit can. This is how the NCAA welcomes its student-athletes. It's how schools typically treat prized recruits. It's a double standard that's a standard procedure across college athletics to keep the big-time machinery rolling.


There's nothing wrong with grown-ups grabbing millions and leaving town overnight, as Donovan did. But 18-year-old kids are signed and can't just leave the school.

Already, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley has said recruits won't be released from their letters of intent until they meet the new coach. He didn't say they could or couldn't walk after that. He just said it wouldn't be considered until then.

Oh, sure, sure, recruits don't sign with coaches, they sign with schools. Or, as Foley told reporters: "This is a special place to be."

Tell that to the 18-year-old who Donovan wooed for a couple of years. Who Donovan drove across the state several times to see. Who Donovan asked how he did on tests, at dances, on vacations. Who Donovan ultimately swayed to play at Florida rather than the half-dozen other schools he was seriously considering.

"He was a reason I went to Florida," Allen said. "I mean, I like the school a lot and there were other reasons to go there. But I definitely wanted to play for him. I definitely thought I could fit in his system."

This isn't to jump on Florida, Donovan or Foley. They are just playing by the rules, the same as any coach or school. Every school goes through this. The University of Miami has several times, the most notable when football recruit Darren Krein threatened to sue the NCAA over this rule when Jimmy Johnson left for the Dallas Cowboys.


"It's a business," Allen said. "I don't blame Coach Donovan. It's a big amount of money and he's a coach that likes the pro game. It's kind of funny, because I thought we were in the clear when he turned down the [Memphis] Grizzlies and the Kentucky jobs."

But about 4 o'clock Thursday, his phone began ringing. Not from Florida officials. Not from coaches. From reporters.

"That's how I found out," he said.

And, though Donovan later left a message, when Allen returned the call the coach's message box was full.

"Maybe someday I'll talk to him," he said.

For now, he'd just like to talk with the new coach, whoever it is.


Dave Hyde writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.