When Bob Diaco was the head coach for UConn, he and his staff earned the verbal commitment of Ryan Dickens, a linebacker from his home state of New Jersey.
That was before the Huskies’ disastrous season, which resulted in Diaco’s firing the day after Christmas.
Unfortunately, as a result of the coaching turnover, Dickens will no longer be a Husky. Randy Edsall called Dickens Sunday night and told him the program would not be honoring the previous staff’s scholarship offer.
The story is heartbreaking. Dickens was excited about being a Husky and, according to the story on NJ.com, Dickens was told his scholarship was secure. He wore UConn gear to school and stayed in touch constantly with his fellow Husky commits. So when he got the phone call from Edsall Sunday, sitting in the car with his parents after an award ceremony, it understandably crushed him.
Dickens’ story has been picked up by the national media, and people all over are turning anger toward Edsall. One writer in New Jersey is even urging football players in the state to stay away from UConn.
I hope all Shore recruits notice how UConn ruthlessly dropped Raritan's Ryan Dickens and steer clear of Edsallhttps://t.co/VMNijH2ra9— Scott Stump (@Scott_Stump) January 17, 2017
That’s just one example of a plethora of outbursts on social media and in the press about this incident.
This public outcry, however, is absurd.
What happened to Dickens is awful. Unfortunately, that’s what happens in college sports. Vice, SB Nation, and even our good friend Mark Blaudschun offered perspective on how common a practice this is and how this is in many ways more honest than other approaches taken by some of Edsall’s peers.
Sad part is, if anything, Edsall is more honest by telling him versus just ghosting him until the kid decommits like most schools do it.— Mike Piellucci (@mikelikessports) January 17, 2017
UConn’s season ended in early December, but the school waited a few weeks before making the switch from Diaco to Edsall. Had they made the move right away, this whole situation may have been avoided. But as recently as this past weekend, Edsall was still putting his staff together. There is a chance that when UConn hired Billy Crocker as defensive coordinator, the plans changed.
So Dickens was left out to dry by a new coaching staff, but let’s not pretend this is anything new. A former Michigan commit felt used by Jim Harbaugh after his scholarship offer was revoked. Edsall’s replacement at Maryland, D.J. Durkin, did the same thing last year.
Alabama, Louisville, and many others across all levels of football have done so even without a coaching change! So why the double standard?
It doesn’t help matters when there is no early signing period like there is in basketball. It’s on high school athletes and the people in their circles to keep that in mind. Your commitment is not binding until you fax in your Letter of Intent on National Signing Day in February. A lot of things can happen between the time you give your verbal commitment and the time you use that ancient form of communication to confirm it.
Apparently, David Benedict is on board with the idea.
UConn AD Bendict on schollie pull says such things could be avoided with early signing period on WTIC.— Ed Daigneault (@EdDaigneault) January 17, 2017
Luckily, Dickens has options. Tuesday morning – not long after announcing his recruiting had opened up again – he announced a scholarship offer from Rhode Island. He has reportedly also heard from Syracuse, Elon, Fordham, UNH, Columbia, Princeton, and many others.
Surely, Dickens dreamed of playing FBS football, and surely Diaco promised him a lot of great opportunities, but college sports is a brutal, unforgiving business which happens to have some great moments sprinkled in. Until changes to the system are made in terms of commitments and signing periods, this will continue to happen.
Dickens will be OK. Clearly, there are programs at great schools interested in offering him a scholarship. The problem with this story right now is we don’t know Edsall’s side yet. Unfortunately, with the rules surrounding recruiting, he cannot speak about recruits for another two weeks. That’s unfortunate, because this story, which has already led to harsh criticism from national pundits, will continue to fester, leaving Edsall in a tough spot when he finally gets to have his say.
Benedict hired Edsall to fix the program. Obviously, there were issues, both on the field and on the recruiting trail. He needs to do what he thinks is best for the program. If that means going in a different direction with a scholarship offer, then he needs to do that, and not receive disproportionate scrutiny compared to others who have done the same.