No Country for Gentlemen: The End of the Verbal Commitment?

I really wish I had a post from earlier this summer to link back to, rather than a half-finished draft still sitting around. Earlier this summer, I began working on a story about the so-called "gentleman's agreement" among the conferences to not actively recruit a player once he made a verbal commitment to another school.

The basis for the story was that the topic once again came up at the annual coaches meeting in Florida this year. I had initially brushed it off, since that topic has come up at the last few coaches meetings, and no changes ever seem to be made. But I was told that the tone of the discussion was much different this year in that the discussion got very heated. Even then, it wasn't a post I felt like I had to get done.

But the past week has added some very interesting context to the issue. It's no secret that the biggest opposition to the so-called "gentleman's agreement" has been the bigger programs that would have the type of clout to steal recruits later in the process,. A few weeks later, six of the biggest schools in the west formed their own conference, citing the desire to be with "like-minded schools" and talk of voting blocks and a desire to take the sport more seriously.

This is mostly speculative, but it's not hard to imagine the "gentleman's agreement" being one of those big school/small school issues that at least helped create this split, and something that will disappear in the future. Especially when the relationship between the Secondary Six and the schools they screwed over is going to be rocky to non-existent.

What does that mean for the future of NCAA hockey? Maybe not much, but it does make things that much harder for the left behind schools to compete in the future. College hockey has also benefited from the perception that a verbal commitment is practically as good as signing a letter of intent. Now, that might not be the case.

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