CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's almost college sports' dirty little secret.
Division I schools, you might be surprised to know, can give out multi-year scholarships. They mostly limit the pacts to one year with renewals - but don't have to go that route.
It makes me wonder on this national letter-of-intent signing date. Could and should more coaches, especially those at WVU and Marshall, use that dirty little secret to their advantage?
"Psst, kid, hey kid, c'mere," they could say. "You know that letter you're set to sign today? It's for one year and, kid, well, we want ya bad. Real bad. So here's an offer I hope you can't refuse: We'll give ya a multi-year scholarship. We'll give ya four years guaranteed."
All D-I schools can give out multi-year deals. It's an NCAA rule that's been in place since 2011. Universities were given the option to offer the multiple years of schooling as long as the athlete stays out of legal trouble, doesn't violate school or NCAA rules, keeps playing the sport and maintains academic eligibility.
If I were a talented, in-demand athlete, I'd insist on it. I certainly would barter. And were I schools with little to no recruiting base - like WVU and Marshall - I'd sure as heck barter back.
Understand that most schools and coaches pooh-pooh the idea. A 2013 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article claimed that two years after the rule was enacted, only 16 of 82 schools surveyed offered 10 or more multi-year deals.
Some, though, offer many. Campus Explorer reported that since 2011, Fresno State has offered 316. The school implemented a policy that every incoming athlete must receive a four-year ride. Illinois has given out 293. Purdue (122), Ohio State (90), Iowa (71), North Carolina State (52) and Michigan State (45) are among others to make the commitment.
The idea is to show students the school cares and their scholarship won't be pulled if they hit a shooting slump.
The problem is, universities have allowed their athletic departments to become multi-million dollar corporations, and those running the departments and programs are highly paid to win.
Thus, recruits are mostly offered the one-year deals. If accepted, the athletes are notified by July 1 of the following year if their deal will be renewed.
That gives coaches an out. (See WVU men's basketball team from last season to this.) But the option of multi-year offers also seems a potential chip to offer recruits torn between two or more like schools.
According to Andrew Donovan, Marshall's director of compliance, the school "determined it would not give out multi-year scholarships." At WVU, though, there have been some such deals cut.
According to Mountaineer director of compliance Harley King, WVU has given out seven multi-year scholarships since 2011: two in baseball, four in women's soccer and one in track/cross country. All are in effect for the 2013-14 school year.
"I've told our coaches if they really feel compelled [to give out multi-year scholarships] they can," said WVU athletic director Oliver Luck. "The reality, though, is it's so rare for kids' scholarships not to be renewed. Usually, if they aren't, it's because of academic or off-the-field problems. I think most kids and parents understand if the kids do the right things all will be fine."