Updated: Jul 21, 2022
Part of what makes sports so special and different from almost every form of entertainment is the element of hope. Even if you’re team is buried in the standings, there’s always optimism for next year and the hope that a championship is coming down the road. But over time, if the results aren’t there and the losses continue to add up, change becomes inevitable and new leadership is necessary. All the hope for the present turns into hope for the future and fans begin to wonder what great coach or GM their team can hire to turn things around.
Over the past few months, we’ve seen some moves on the coaching front that have made national headlines. In college football, 28 schools have hired new head coaches so far in one of the craziest “coaching carousels” we’ve seen to date. USC, a historical powerhouse that has lost its elite status recently, was able to pry Lincoln Riley away from another blueblood in Oklahoma. After firing Ed Orgeron less than 2 years removed from a national title, LSU poached Brian Kelly away from Notre Dame, one of if not the biggest brands in college athletics.
Did Oklahoma or Notre Dame have any way of knowing that USC and LSU respectively were coming after their coaches? No, and the reasoning for that is that hiring process in college sports doesn’t abide by the same formalities that they do in pro sports. This came to light by recent news coming out of the New York Mets quest to fill their out coaching staff for their new manager, Buck Showalter.
Reports from the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal over the past week stated that the Mets were denied permission to interview Padres Quality Control Coach, Ryan Flaherty and Giants Co-Pitching Coach, Andrew Bailey for their vacant bench coach position. In Major League Baseball, teams are required to “ask permission” to interview coaching and executive positions. Normally, when it involves a promotion (i.e. a bench coach interviewing for a manager or an Assistant GM interviewing for a GM), a team will grant the rival team the right to interview. But they don’t have to.
Because we are past the “normal” hiring cycle in the MLB offseason, the Padres and Giants decided not to grant the Mets the permission to interview their respective coaches. Even though the Mets were offering what would be a promotion for both Flaherty and Bailey, MLB rules permit a team from blocking another team from interviewing their staff members if they are under contract.
If this were in the NFL, the Padres and Giants would not be allowed to deny the Mets this permission. Current NFL rules state that a team can only block a candidate from interviewing for a position that would be a lateral move and cannot stop assistant coaches from interviewing for a position that would be a promotion. MLB is able to do this mainly because of their antitrust exemption it’s had since 1922’s “Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore, Inc. v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs” case.
While Flaherty and Bailey haven’t released public animosity towards their current employers from blocking them the opportunity to advance in their coaching careers, many around the game believe they would’ve jumped at the opportunity to head to New York. Flaherty played under Buck Showalter in their time together in Baltimore and Bailey would’ve returned closer to his home roots while working under new GM Billy Eppler, who gave him his first coaching opportunity a few years ago.
All of this goes to show just how different the hiring process is between college sports and professional sports. Baseball’s antitrust exemption is widely believed to be outdated and could be in danger moving forward. If a coach sees a better opportunity for their careers, themselves, and their family, they should be able to take that opportunity.
Oklahoma and Notre Dame couldn’t block Lincoln Riley and Brian Kelly from interviewing for another job, and maybe that’s the way it should be. If the buyout language is clear and honored, a coach, just like any of us, should be able to advance in their chosen profession.