Last night, the Northern Illinois football team played in the biggest game in the history of their program. Because of a crazy system where college coaches switch jobs before the season is over, their head coach was watching the game from the stands (see at right) and the team was led by somebody who was making his debut as a head coach.In all, nine teams will play in bowl games this season without the head coach that led them during the regular season, including two teams in BCS bowl games. In addition to Dave Doeren, who left Northern Illinois before the Orange Bowl to become the head coach at North Carolina State, Bret Bielema accepted the job at Arkansas before his old team, Wisconsin, played in the Rose Bowl.
One big reason why coaches bolt before the bowl games is because there may fear that if they don’t take the position immediately, somebody else will. But more importantly, athletic directors want their new coaches in place during the ever-important “contact period” for recruiting high school players.
During the school year, coaches are not permitted to contact recruits until after the regular season. And the first “contact period” lasts just three weeks, from the end of November through mid-December. Coaches are then not permitted to contact recruits again until after the bowl games.
If the NCAA wanted to keep coaches from jumping ship before the biggest games of the year, all they would need to do is either eliminate the early contact period between the regular season and the bowl games or conduct the early contact period prior to the regular season, in July and August.
Otherwise, schools will still demand coaches accept jobs in December, and coaches will continue to abandon their kids before the season ends.
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