Reneging On a Verbal Commitment: A Microcosm of Our Eroding Values?


This year, I have written several articles reflecting on the efforts of the USC Trojans in the recruiting wars that dominate prep news at this time of year.

Titled, “Laying the Foundation,” these articles are my effort to follow the progress of the Trojans as they vie for the best high school players in the nation.

For successful college football programs, the recruiting and signing of a talented athlete is the difference between winning and losing.

It’s that simple.

It doesn’t matter how well you coach a player or how brilliant your game plan is, without the talent to implement that coaching and utilize that game plan, it is all for nought.

So, for me, recruiting is an integral part of any successful college football program.

Of course, part of what goes into the recruiting process is finding out the mental make-up of the student-athlete you are attempting to sign.

We read stories everyday of a kid who makes a bad choice and finds themselves being kicked off a team or, God forbid, being incarcerated for that lapse of judgment.

For coaches, part of the recruiting process is also determining the values that a prospective student-athlete possesses.

It is an undeniable fact that a college football player not only represents himself while playing for a university but also the school itself.

Which brings me to the topic of the article in question.

The last “Laying the Foundation” article I wrote dealt specifically with Tony Jefferson, the southern California athlete who recently gave his verbal pledge to Oklahoma after reneging on his word first to Stanford and then to UCLA.

In that article, I offered an opinion that the ease with which Jefferson broke his promise to these respective universities was a red flag of sorts regarding the kids values, and those counting on him should be wary of future problems that may come along with whatever talents he brings to the field.

Now, I am completely aware that coaches also break their words to players that they have offered scholarships to when a better player comes their way.

This is wrong as well and I offer no excuses for those coaches that engage in that behavior.

Having said that, the instances of recruits going back on their verbal pledges is far more predominant than the other way around.

Of course, there are mitigating circumstances that sometimes preclude the keeping of your word when it comes to verbal commitments that these prep athletes give to schools that offer scholarships.

For example, if a college coach that is recruiting you leaves or is fired, or if family circumstances develop that changes things, then the verbal commitment should not be considered a binding representation of the players word.

However, that was not the tone of what I was trying to say.

I was simply opining that an athlete who gives his or her verbal pledge should do so with the predominant notion that their word is important and that a lot of consideration should go into that decision before it is rendered.

Recruiting decisions are often based on filling needs and when a player gives a verbal commitment, then often coaching staffs move on to fill the next need.

When a player reneges on that promise to attend the school that they have given the verbal commitment to, they throw the entire recruiting plan for that school into disarray.

My point was that careful consideration should be entertained prior to giving the verbal commitment and once rendered, it should be honored unless circumstances such as those I have outlined occur.

Naively, I thought my assertions were self evident and that any reasonable person would agree that a persons word, by and large, was a value that should be embraced by all members of a civilized society.

Surprisingly, this was not the case.

Although my article has not received an abundance of comments (maybe because many agree with me, maybe not), the comments I have received have been of a nature that it is perfectly okay to break your promise, whatever the cause.

One person has even gone so far as to suggest there should be no contracts whatsoever that bind either coaches or players to the promises they make.

For me, this is alarming and symptomatic of the eroding values that society is displaying in modern times.

To rationalize the breaking of a persons word is just another convenient excuse to act in a irresponsible manner and it is this kind od a lack of accountability that plagues society in the world we live in.

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, a kid going back on his word isn’t cataclysmic by nature and maybe I am making too big a deal of this.

After all, people are dying every day in a world full of injustice.

But change starts in small ways and the keeping of your word is as good a place to start changing the world as any.