Question about hiring coaches from opposing teams

Submitted by crg on August 16th, 2017 at 4:45 PM

I think this is relevant enough to not be OT:

It seems odd to me that there are not more restrictions in place for coaches leaving one team and joining the staff of opposing teams. Many industries have non-compete clauses in new hire contracts (seen many myself). Though the legal enforceability is all in the details, it seems a reasonable proposition on the surface. Obviously they should not exclude coaches from going to all other teams at a similar level (that would be unfair), but there should be some logical limits. Two prime examples come to mind (but many others can be suggested): Durkin to Maryland and Wilson to OSU. These scenarios could potentially provide the new employers with massive amounts of inside information on a regular opponent, especially in the case of Wilson since, as head coach, he was privy to nearly all information within the IU program. Maybe this is not that big of an issue since the staff can change things, but it just doesn't seem right.  Has this been discussed/resolved already?


Everyone Murders

August 16th, 2017 at 4:52 PM ^

Wilson's inside knowledge of IU will almost certainly be the explanation for OSU beating IU soundly!  This explains why OSU hired him - to finally get over the "Hoosier Hump".

(Mostly kidding here, but I believe that the game plans and playbooks are considered university property and not meant to travel with the coach - probably subject to confidentiality provisions.  What's in the coaches' heads - that's experience, and I doubt that's regulated much.)

Everyone Murders

August 16th, 2017 at 5:17 PM ^

I was just yanking your chain a bit.  The question of exposure to a program's playbook, and recruiting strategy for that matter, all could result in a competitive advantage to a program taking a coach from a future opponent.

I think part of that is mitigated by the fact that you seldom play any school more than once in a season, and playbooks, recruiting programs, terminology, etc., evolve.  There's no question that Durkin is likely better prepared to face a Harbaugh-coached team than other coaches.  (And I suspect that neither of us, despite that fact, actually "fear the turtle".)


August 16th, 2017 at 5:34 PM ^

That's why I said a blanket ban is unfair, but if a coach leaves (or interviews with) a team to work for another that is known to be an up coming opponent the following season, doesn't seem like a conflict of interest?

Mr Miggle

August 16th, 2017 at 7:41 PM ^

I would think if head coaches thought that it was a big deal when their assistants made a lateral move to a rival, they might insist on differently structured contracts for their staff. If I was an assistant, I might well prefer one that didn't include too many teams to a cash buyout that applies to every other team. Restricting them from taking a promotion is a non-starter either way.

Will we have an advantage over Indiana this season because of Greg Frey? I'd say yes because he makes our coaching staff better. His knowledge of IU's blocking schemes might help a little too, but  they are also going to know a little more about ours. It's obviously not why we hired him and not a good enough reason for IU to keep him from taking a much better job.

I'd think the bigger issue might be in recruiting. Taking knowledge of the recruiting board and relationships with potential recruits could matter. It really doesn't apply though when coaches are moving between schools like IU and OSU. The moves where it might don't happen very often. The swap of Smart and Pruitt between Bama and UGA is one, but I guess that balanced out.


August 16th, 2017 at 5:24 PM ^

Didn't Wilson get shitcanned for cause? I'm not a lawyer obviously but how does a non-compete work if you are terminated for cause or laid off or whatever? Seems like if the employer ceases to uphold their end of the contract (job/compensation) then trying to uphold the non-compete is unfair. 


Just from my non-legal point of view, I could see the rationale to have a non-compete for a guy like Steve Stripling who basically takes a lateral move at a competitor for more $ and prestige. But for like Durkin who is taking a clear promotion? Or a guy who gets let go like Erik Campbell to Iowa, why should a non-compete apply in that type of situation? Becuase the competition is essentially regional in college football and there is only 1 Power5 conference in the Midwest, West, and Plains states (some ACC/SEC overlap) you'd be putting so much friction in the job market if you start preventing unemployed people or people taking promotions from doing so. 


August 16th, 2017 at 5:00 PM ^

and I am sure that any team can have such claus included in the contract if they are willing to pay the cost. But it seems that nobody care in sport industry





August 16th, 2017 at 5:07 PM ^

Interestingly one of the reasons Harbaugh cited for reducing staff headcount was that too many people were getting a look at how Michigan does things (I'm paraphrasing but the implication was clear).

Noncompetes would fly in the face of the entire history of football. The culture is you move up/down and frequently encounter your old teams. That's not going to change in such a small industry.

Coaches change and evolve strategies anyway so I don't know if it has a huge impact outside of speeding the decline of those stuck in their ways.

Jack Be Nimble

August 16th, 2017 at 5:12 PM ^

Non-compete clauses are most common in situations where the employer has more bargaining power than the employee. A school might be able to put one into a contract in a situation where the coach they were hiring was desperate for the job, but that is relatively rare. Having the ability to jump ship is pretty damn important for a coach. I can't imagine they would give that up easily. In most situations, I imagine the coach would refuse, and the school would have no way of forcing the issue.


August 16th, 2017 at 5:22 PM ^

It works both ways. Mattison probably had a pretty good scouting report for Doc Brown against Florida from working with Nussmeier. Generally speaking, a coach's system isn't really a secret. Brown's playbook from BC is publically available for example. It's kinda like chess, you know all the possible moves the opponents pieces can make, but that doesn't mean you know what he's going to do. 


August 16th, 2017 at 5:39 PM ^

Mattison is several years removed from UF and same for Nussmeier from UM. I don't see much conflict possible due to natural turnover. But (as a hypothetical) if someone, say Drevno, had left UM after the bowl to take the OC position at UF, would that not represent a possible conflict?


August 16th, 2017 at 6:05 PM ^

I would imagine that year-over-year changes would mean that a coach can't provide any real insight on a team a year later that good film study couldn't provide. Even stuff like "coach X likes to get aggressive with play action on second down" that is gained on a headset is visible to opponents on the field.

One exception could be vocabulary and signals, but I suspect that signals that could be intercepted would be changed from year to year.


August 16th, 2017 at 5:31 PM ^

My guess is that the idea that you only play a team once in a season or, in the case of modern Big Ten scheduling, once and then only once more in the average lifespan, there isn't much need seen for such a thing. I mean, we have had people sign then when leaving us even though utilities really don't compete for business per se, and my dad's was built into his employment at GM essentially that he couldn't work for an auto company for a few years if he ever left (he didn't), but I don't see the need in coaching necessarily. 


August 16th, 2017 at 5:46 PM ^

in coaches contracts, they usually are allowed to leave for a promotion, but not necessarily on a lateral unless agreed to


obviously fired coaches can go wherever the hell they want


August 16th, 2017 at 6:09 PM ^

Will necessarily jump compensation, thus subtracting funds available for other purposes. A coach, even a minor one, will demand more money because he might need to sit on the sidlines for a time. I believe this is a very bad idea. Let competition reign. A coach nullified temporarilymight actually utilize the off-time to improve, network, recruit, publcize, and even strive to destroy his former affiliation. No, and it's not going to happen regardless. Shall we limit a student-athlete's ability to transfer to a rival? How do you define that relation? Consider.

AA Forever

August 16th, 2017 at 6:13 PM ^

are not THAT big a secret.  You can already study every play your upcoming opponents have run, going back as far as matters.  Having a little book where the little x's and o's and arrows are drawn out doesn't tell you a bunch more.


August 16th, 2017 at 8:21 PM ^

This would be under the assumption that teams don't change from year to year. As if they don't add/change formations and plays. As if new personnel doesn't change the schemes.

Any good coach adjusts and changes the team year to year. Regardless of any coach attrition.

Ali G Bomaye

August 17th, 2017 at 10:10 AM ^

It's all about power.

A college kid looking for a scholarship, with few exceptions, has basically zero power. The colleges have established a cartel that has a standard scholarship offer, and rules restricting transfers, and recruits/players have no input on these rules. Therefore, the rules favor the institutions rather than the players.

On the other hand, coaches have a lot of power. Each coaching contract is negotiated individually, and the terms of the contracts matter a lot. No coach is going to sign a contract that restricts their ability to work at other institutions, particularly if they're moving up. For instance, there is zero chance Durkin would have accepted an offer to become our DC if that contract had restricted his ability to accept a HC job at other B1G schools.


August 17th, 2017 at 1:27 PM ^

Non competes work in industries where such arrangements don't significantly impact career moves.  Non competes in college football would massively impede peoples career paths.  Not to mention if one school started doing them I don't think good coaches would consider working there.  


Plus at the end of the day 115 young men are being coached and roughly a quarter of them will graduate each year.  What is to stop rival schools from hiring those young men in order to get the inside scoop?  Can you enforce a non-compete on a student athlete?  


Not to mention most college coaches are very open about their systems and share them with other colleges and high school coaches at various clinics and seminars during the off season.


And on top of that there aren't too many schematic secrets in a game that is broadcast on national television.  You might come up with something novel one year, but the minute you use it in a game it is on tape and coaches can analyze it and figure ways to defeat it.  And if it is good they'll probably copy it and add their own tweaks.  



August 18th, 2017 at 10:01 PM ^

A few days behind on this, but to weigh in because I've answered this question before: Non-competes are relatively rare, and when they are used they're usually limited to a specific area (for example, Bielema has a non-compete within the SEC).

The reality is that with head coaches they hold a lot more negotiating power than your average employee, and much like with CEOs and other high-powered employees, you enforce restrictive covenants in another way, such as:

  • Buyouts/Liquidated Damages
  • Consent to Interview Clauses
  • Trade Secrets/Confidential Information Clauses

The last one (Trade Secrets/Confidential Information) seem to be much more common, and arguably could cover a number of the items that the OP asks about (playbooks, processes, etc), but the reality is that when a coach is leaving and a new one is coming in, much of that is unlikely to matter. The new coach is going to want to do his own thing. It would, however, restrict the coach downloading a bunch of files, (probably) sending recruiting lists to himself, discussing trade secrets or confidential info with the media, etc. - the really egregious offenses.