We’ve been following the Demarcus Cousins saga. For those who haven’t, Cousins is a blue chip high school basketball recruit who has been bargaining hard with the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) over signing his National Letter of Intent — the letter that commits a player to attend the university and imposes the penalty of giving up a full year of eligibility if the student-athlete transfers. Cousins wants to commit to UAB to play for former Indiana University coach Mike Davis but wanted to seek contractual insurance for the possibility that after signing the letter of intent and making specific investments to UAB, Davis might leave the program. Cousins alleged that Davis promised that UAB would release Cousins without penalty if Davis was no longer his coach.
When we last left Cousins, he was holding out, talking to other programs, and attempting to bargain for this term in his National Letter of Intent.
At the time I thought the most likely outcome would be that UAB, a mid-major program for whom a recruit of Cousins’ caliber is a rare catch, would come around and concede the term. Such a concession is surely in Coach Davis’ interest in a market where winning, and winning soon, counts for quite a bit. What was UAB thinking? The costs of granting the term don’t seem incredibly high to me from UAB’s perspective. Sure, more recruits will ask for such a concession. And perhaps the benefits of keeping Cousins around are mitigated by the fact that he might leave for the NBA early (though the fact that he so adamantly wanted to negotiate a term to stay in the event of a coaching change cuts the other way). And yes, prohibiting the term provides some insurance for the UAB program in case Davis leaves too. Recruiting a new coach is a bit easier if you can keep your best players. And on the margin, a penalty for departure makes it more likely that UAB would keep them. Was Davis willing to concede this term but UAB wasn’t? I’ll look forward to learning more about this. Anyway, I would have thoughts the benefits of keeping a player like Cousins (and the impact this can have on recruiting in subsequent classes) would exceed these costs. On top of that, one might hypothesize that a rule allowing the cream of the crop to opt-out of the NLI transfer penalty would help mid-majors on average — allowing them a second shot at players that they might not otherwise have access to.
I’m sure Memphis is happy to have him.
The lesson I draw from the Demarcus Cousins saga, for now, is that Coach Davis is not likely to be around long.