Mac Engel

Baylor should do the right thing when it comes to 2016 commitments

The departure of Baylor football coach Art Briles has caused as many as seven Baylor signees to ask for their release from national letters of intent. Baylor is not obligated to grant a release from the binding letter.
The departure of Baylor football coach Art Briles has caused as many as seven Baylor signees to ask for their release from national letters of intent. Baylor is not obligated to grant a release from the binding letter. AP

Collis Cobb waited for more than two hours for a conversation with a Baylor athletic administrator that lasted maybe two minutes and ended up with nothing.

Cobb’s son, Parrish, is quite desperate to get out of his commitment to attend Baylor University, which he made on National Signing Day in February. So are a lot of others who made the commitment under the assumption that Art Briles would be their head coach.

Standing outside of McLane Stadium in Waco last week after Baylor introduced Jim Grobe as its acting head coach, sweat poured off Collis Cobb’s head as he waited for hours to talk to someone. He eventually forced his way into a discussion with Baylor interim athletic director Todd Patulksi.

“I wanted an answer but I didn’t get one,” Cobb told me in a phone interview Friday. “I asked him, ‘Can you release our son?’ He did tell me that he wants to do the right thing and that was pretty much it. I have not heard from them since then.”

Even the biggest and most loyal Baylor supporter would acknowledge that given the bizarre set of circumstances their school should free these kids out of their commitment if that is their choice.

As of today, that is not happening.

“I’ll take any piece of help or advice I can get because right now it does not appear that Baylor is willing to work with us,” Cobb said. “They are putting Baylor first.”

Baylor is left trying to hang on to the fruits of Art Briles’ success while actively distancing itself from the man himself.

The collateral and immediate damage to this scandal is recruiting: Many members of the Baylor class of 2016 want out, and the highly-ranked commitments of ’17 have dropped their non-binding oral commitment. All of the good players who made Baylor a top 10 team no longer want to go to Baylor.

Cobb was a four-star high school player who excelled as a cornerback and kick returner. At least six others want out as well.

The first, new oral commitment for Baylor’s ’17 class came this week from a kid who had offers from Stephen F. Austin, Northeastern State and Navy. That’s not exactly Ohio State, Texas and Oklahoma.

Parrish Cobb was a defensive back at Waco La Vega who had originally committed to Oklahoma but shortly before Signing Day switched to Baylor. Briles was fired one week before the summer semester began, forwhich Cobb had originally intended to enroll.

A few days after Grobe was hired, Collis Cobb said he met with the head coach and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett at his house to listen to their sales pitch. After the two-hour meeting, Cobb said he thanked the men for their time but that he felt it was best for his son to go to school elsewhere.

Per Cobb, Bennett said, “You are going to have to go through the NCAA appeals process.”

At that point Cobb’s mother, Cindy, broke down and cried.

Since then Cobb’s father has actively sought out the Baylor staff, and members of the media, to pressure to let his son go elsewhere.

Without an outright release, an appeals process could take months, with Cobb losing.

With Baylor dragging its paws and not granting the release, the most likely scenario is that Cobb, and others, will have to go through a transfer process without ever having registered at Baylor.

“I guess that would be his redshirt year, but he can’t go to another Big 12 school,” Collis Cobb said.

The same goes for all of the 2016 commitments who want out.

The NCAA’s national letter of intent commitment is a one-way deal that is rife with hypocrisy; the player is bound to his signature for a year, whereas the coach or administrator can split the moment a better offer comes.

In defense of the NCAA, which is like defending a crack dealer, there must be some language in place that makes a commitment somewhat binding. If not, these guys would be quitting two days into practice after the coaches who were so nice to them during the recruiting process start yelling at them because they stink.

There are exceptional circumstances that should warrant an obvious release from these commitments — and this is one of them.

Nearly all of these athlete-students committed to Baylor because they believed in Art Briles. One of the reasons Cobb wanted his son to play for Briles, and this is only slightly ironic, was because he thought the discipline would be good for him.

Now that Briles is out, guys like Cobb and others want out, too.

Baylor still has time to grant a release and allow the players to go to a different school without a prolonged and unnecessary hassle. As of right now it wants to make it difficult for those kids because they are good at football, and Baylor still wants to be good at football.

There is always collateral damage in situations like this, but the right thing to do here is to let those who want out, out.

Let Cobb and the rest go.

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