These days, college coaching contracts hardly binding

These days, college coaching contracts hardly binding
December 19, 2012, 10:30 am
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Stanford had never won 11 games prior to 2010; they have 11 wins in each of the last three seasons. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

You want David Shaw’s “long-term” contract extension at Stanford to mean something. Well, okay, maybe you don’t care one way or another. But some people do, so bear with us.

But Shaw re-upping at Stanford is bending only insofar as the length of time he wants to stay, or they want him to stay. Contracts, particularly contracts for coaches, are typically not worth the press releases they are hailed on, because neither coach nor school, nor the lawyers for either coach or school, would allow an ironclad contract to ever see the light of a printer.

Coaching today is about options. When one turns up that a coach likes, he’s gone. Or when a school decides that its commitment to a coach has reached its sell-by date, it sells it.

Thus, celebrating Shaw’s re-up at Stanford is more a matter of symbolism than language. It is him saying, “I like it here,” and the school saying, “Coincidentally, so do we.”

[RELATED: Stanford rewards Shaw with 'long-term' extension]

It is, in fact, not much different than Mike Riley telling Barry Alvarez that he’d rather stay at Oregon State than go to Wisconsin. It’s a statement of interest, which in and of itself is a fine thing, but it is not binding for an actual specific amount of time.

We don’t doubt Shaw wants to stay at Stanford, for now. He seems thoroughly happy in his current surroundings, and his satisfaction does not have an actual expiration date.

But everything changes. Administrations, recruiting, results, opportunities . . . nothing is more fluid than college football. Hell, in three weeks, Stanford could be in the Big 12 for all we know.

So it’s a happy day at Stanford, for an undetermined amount of time. That’s as “long-term” as “long-term” can be.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for

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