Arizona needs to release early signees from letters of intent after Rich Rodriguez firing

Arizona's dismissal of Rich Rodriguez on Tuesday night brought about a new problem for college football. It's the first time since the adoption of the Early Signing Period that a coach has been fired after recruits signed their letters of intent during the early period. Now, while there's plenty of interest in what led to Rodriguez's demise in Tucson, and where Arizona goes from here to replace him, there's something else I'm far more interested in.

What happens to the 16 kids who sent in their letters of intent last month?

The Early Signing Period was implemented in part to allow recruits who already had their minds made up to officially commit to their school and put all the hassles of recruiting behind them. No more incessant text messages from coaches. No more schools trying to sell you on their program after you've already vocally committed to another program.

By signing early, they were able to go on about their lives. Things like being a teenager, and, you know, finishing up high school and getting their diplomas.

With Rodriguez's ouster, there are now 16 recruits who made their commitment to Rodriguez and Arizona who no longer have any idea who the coaches will be when they arrive on campus. Over the last year or so, they developed a relationship with a coaching staff that might be entirely different now, but they're currently locked into the situation by their letter of intent.

So what will the NCAA do?

Hopefully, the decision won't be hard -- it shouldn't be. College basketball has had an early signing period for years, and if a coach is fired by the school after they signed, they're routinely released from their LOI if they request to be. That needs to be the same case in college football.

After all, the school had been investigating claims made against Rodriguez for at least 10 weeks. The school "retained counsel to investigate allegations of sexual harassment" in October 2017, nearly two full months before the Early Signing Period.

How many of the 16 kids who signed in December were made aware of this investigation beforehand? How many were told that there was a real chance that Rodriguez would no longer be the coach at Arizona if they chose to sign with the school?

Only the recruits themselves know that answer, but I don't think it takes a genius to figure out the answer is almost certainly zero.

All of which means that these recruits signed with Arizona under false pretenses, and should be allowed out of their letters of intent if they so choose to ask for a release.

It's the only decent thing to do.

CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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