During the spring of her sophomore year of high school, Carmel volleyball player Grace Butler orally commit to Central Michigan.
A 6-foot setter, Butler made the decision in April 2015 after much research and deliberation with her parents.
"I knew all the big schools in the Big Ten and SEC had players committed at my position," Butler said. "If I waited any longer, I might miss an offer."
While on a campus visit before her commitment, Butler felt comfortable with Chippewas head coach Erik Olson. She bought into Olson's long-term vision for the program and how Olson believed Butler would be a significant contributor to a conference championship-winning team.
But in October 2015, everything changed.
An urgent email from a CMU assistant and a subsequent phone call revealed that Olson had been placed on administrative leave. The assistant told Butler that Olson could be fired.
"I was in school," Butler said. "I was freaking out."
Butler had a decision to make: Should she wait for a resolution or open up her recruiting?
Butler's conundrum is not unusual in the ever-changing culture of college athletics. Coaches recruit high school athletes with promises of playing time, then leave the program for one reason or another. By committing early, Butler had hoped to remove the inherent stress from the college search process.
"Volleyball players start getting looked at eighth grade year," said Rolling Thunder Volleyball Club coach Spencer Kaszuba, who first coached Butler in 2012. "I had coaches asking me at tournaments, 'Who is this kid? We might be interested.' When she committed (to Central Michigan), she had been through the recruiting process for two years."
After learning Olson might be fired, Butler called Kaszuba. He advised her to be patient.
"I wanted to remind her why she committed to Central Michigan. She liked the staff. It's a beautiful opportunity academically," Kaszuba said. "There was no need for her to open her recruiting Pandora's box if she didn't need to."
Olson resigned in December. By then, Butler had a plan: She would honor her commitment to Central Michigan. But she would not sit idly by and wait for the school to make a decision on a new coach.
She called Central Michigan athletic director Dave Heeke.
"I had a talk with him and asked if they would still be committed to me even though the head coach left," Butler said. "(Heeke) said they were fully committed to me and any new coach would be happy to have me. That was nice to hear."
On Jan. 28, Central Michigan hired Mike Gawlik as head coach. Butler learned of the news via a text message. She checked her email archives and found a note from Gawlik from a few years back. While an assistant coach at Michigan State, Gawlik had recruited Butler.
A Jan. 29 phone call from Gawlik solidified the relationship between new coach and future player.
"He told me he was excited to have me on the team," Butler said. "He wanted me to come up for a visit."
Butler did in February and met Gawlik, which reconfirmed her verbal commitment from 10 months prior. Much happened between April 2015 and February 2016, but Butler will enter her senior high school season with a college destination firmly in place.
"It's hard being patient, but I stayed true," she said.