Randy Edsall’s second tenure at UConn is starting a little bit like how his first stint ended: with some controversy. Shortly after returning as the Huskies’ head coach and rounding out his coaching staff, Edsall and UConn have been in spotlight for their actions on the recruiting trail.
High school linebacker Ryan Dickens from Hazlet, New Jersey was offered a scholarship by former head coach Bob Diaco in June and planned on signing his National Letter of Intent in less than three weeks to play for the Huskies. So it was a surprise to Dickens and his family that three days after new linebackers coach Jon Wholley met with Dickens to discuss his next visit and signing day, Edsall called and told him that they would be rescinding his scholarship offer and going in a different direction.
Dickens was unsurprisingly shocked, and is now in a tough position, tasked with finding a new school with signing day fast approaching. Edsall’s decision to pull Dickens’ offer made waves on the internet Monday after news broke in a nj.com story. Various news outlets like Deadspin weighing in on how and why Edsall’s actions were wrong. UConn fans and college football fans in general weighed in too, and many echoed those statements.
From a moral standpoint, having a school tell someone like Dickens they want him only to bail at the last minute certainly seems messed up, but here’s the thing: Edsall isn’t the first coach to do it, and certainly won’t be the last. New coaches routinely pull scholarships from players who committed under the old regime, and Dickens, who committed when Diaco was coach, is no different. Stories like this pop up like clockwork around this time of year. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh did it when he took over Michigan, pulling a scholarship from an offensive tackle that committed over two years prior. Randy Edsall’s replacement at Maryland, D.J. Durkin, did it too. But for whatever reason, UConn’s actions became a national story. Even Paul Finebaumgot in on the action.
“This is a total disgrace,” Finebaum said. “I realize there’s a coaching change here, but sometimes you just have to honor commitments, we don’t do that enough in this country. Make it work. This is a terrible look for UConn and I think they’re going to pay for this.”
While it still may seem messed up, there are logical reasons for new coaches to do this. Changes in schemes or objectives may make some players expendable. New coaches might identify different needs and therefore will free up scholarships as needed to address them. Some coaches may feel like players that committed under the old coach simply aren’t good enough. While it seems like it’s all to benefit the school or the new coach, it does benefit the players too. If they choose to sign regardless of a coaching change and don’t play their first year and want to transfer, they lose that year of eligibility. By cutting ties before signing day, players have a better chance to play right away.
Dickens is no different. While the news is upsetting and frustrating for him and his family, he will land on his feet. Dickens- who is by all accounts a great student and equally good football player, recording over 300 tackles in his high school career- has already picked up a full scholarship offer from Rhode Island, and while it is an FCS school, other FBS programs may swoop in late. His story is unfortunately one that is all too common in collegiate sports. Then again, when an organization like the NCAA is in charge – one that has shown little regard to current athletes, let alone prospective ones – it’s not surprising. Until changes are made in the recruiting process like the addition of an early signing period, to name one, future college athletes will have stories much likes Dickens for years to come.