Susquehannock High School grad Randy Edsall speaks out on concerns about NIL, prep schools
As college athletes across the country begin to profit off of their name, image and likenesses, UConn football coach Randy Edsall believes the recently passed laws could create an unfair advantage in the football landscape.
“This is my biggest concern, in terms of college athletics,” the Susquehannock High School graduate said recently. “Especially in a place like Connecticut.”
Edsall singled out the BYU football team as an example of inequality. The Cougars arranged a deal with Built Brands, LLC, a Utah-based company that produces protein snacks, and announced an agreement that would give all 123 of its football players opportunities to be paid to promote Built Brand’s products. While scholarship players can earn up to $1,000 in benefits, walk-on players can be paid the equivalent of a year’s tuition at BYU.
He believes in doing so, the Cougars could be circumventing the maximum allotted scholarship total of 85 and would be able to recruit players with the incentive that they’ll be similarly compensated.
“When I look at that situation, who’s to say now BYU can’t go and have kids come there and say, ‘Hey we can’t offer you a scholarship, but you can come here’ and they can get that,” Edsall said. “From name, image and likeness and get a check to cover their tuition — room, books, board, tuition and fees. They can use that. They could really have more than 85 almost guys on scholarship. They could recruit guys and tell them that.”
An arrangement such as the one BYU has with Built Brands is prohibited at UConn. Per the state and university’s NIL policy:
— Coaches and boosters cannot be involved in creating or facilitating endorsement deals for athletes.
— School employees or agents cannot arrange payment to or direct student-athletes to a specific professional service provider.
— The university may not identify or select a professional service provider for a student-athlete. Essentially, UConn cannot serve as a broker between a brand and its athletes.
According to KSL.com, the Cougars signed a a multiyear NIL package with Built Brands. BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe did not negotiate directly with company, though it was vetted by the school’s general counsel and president. As part of the deal, BYU players will be required to wear a decal with the company logo on their practice helmets, promote the brand on social media and make public appearances.
Edsall clarified that he is in favor of athletes having the ability to profit off of their NIL and thinks the NCAA “dragged their feet” on this issue and should have given players a stipend included in their scholarship.
“But as long as each state has individual laws, it’s really an unfair advantage,” he said.
Prep schools: A large majority of Connecticut’s premier football talent has come from the prep school level in recent years, and Edsall thinks the ongoing wave of public-to-prep transfers is hurting local high schools.
“They’re going and getting guys to leave public schools and reclassify, and sometimes that’s hurting the public schools in terms of their ability to have the kind of success they want to,” he said. “Now the prep schools are trying to get the better players to go there. It’s almost like prep schools and certain private academies around not just the state but the entire country are all doing that. You saw it a lot in basketball, but now you’re starting to see it more in football.”
According to a 2019 Courant report, 36 of the 56 Connecticut high school football players who went on to play FBS football graduated from a private, non-CIAC affiliated school. According to 247, the top eight Connecticut football recruits in the class of 2022 attend prep schools.
Edsall also said he wished there weren’t as many restrictions as there are on Connecticut high school programs. It’s unclear which restrictions Edsall was referring to, though the CIAC’s policy barring out-of-season instruction has drawn the ire of coaches in the past. The Southern Connecticut Conference requested in 2019 that the CIAC create a subcommittee to explore the state’s limitations on seasonal coaching. The CIAC’s subcommittee had planned to finish its research in the spring of 2020 when COVID-19 put it on pause.