Danny O’Brien is expected to graduate in the spring. That would enable the Maryland quarterback, with two years of eligibility remaining, to transfer to another Football Bowl Subdivision school and play immediately. The one stipulation is that O’Brien enroll in a graduate program not offered at Maryland.Sounds pretty good, right? Here's a guy who was successful enough on the field to win major accolades in a BCS conference while at the same time earn his degree in 3 years. Sounds like a guy that should be celebrated. Sounds like a guy who should have a lot of options. He does, just not as many as he should.
Here's some background: O'Brien didn't play much his sophomore year. Although I don't know why the 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year found himself holing a clipboard through much of the 2011 season, I have to think that fact had something to do with his (now former) head coach, Randy Edsall. Edsall, UConn's head coach for 11 years before heading to College Park, was hired in 2011 after Maryland fired Ralph Friedigen. Maryland fired Ralph Friedgen in large part, because Vanderbilt hired James Franklin. After Franklin headed to Nashville, Maryland's Athletic Director Kevin Anderson (don't you wish you had one of those, Commodore fans?), was off the hook from either a) making Franklin the head football coach at Maryland starting in 2012, or b) paying Franklin $1 million dollars in the event he wasn't. Which brings us back to Danny O'Brien.
Franklin recruited O'Brien to play at Maryland. As a result, O'Brien was committed to Maryland for the entirety of his 5-years of NCAA eligibility absent a release from Maryland or a special dispensation from the NCAA. It is worth mentioning that, although O'Brien's commitment to Maryland was for as many as 5 years, Maryland's commitment to him was for no longer than one year at a time, and was still subject to the head coach's decision to keep, play, or cut him. That's because, most schools only offer renewable one-year scholarships (a system the NCAA's members want to keep in place, apparently). This is something I've never said before on this site, but the Big Ten is right. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive called for schools to offer multi-year scholarships at the 2011 Media Days, unfortunately, only Florida and Auburn have given multi-year scholarships to players in the SEC so far. Whether Vanderbilt should make a similar committment is a matter for a different post, although for what it's worth, I believe they should. But I digress...
Randy Edsall has granted O'Brien's request to transfer from Maryland, with one caveat: the release does not include Vanderbilt. According to Prisbell's blog on the Post's website, a condition of his release was that O'Brien not be allowed to transfer to a school coached by the man who recruited him, at a school in a different conference, for a team that was not scheduled to play Maryland in the next 2 years (and who hasn't played them since 1987). The final section of the post highlights the absurdity of the whole thing: "If Edsall had allowed O’Brien to transfer to Vanderbilt, it’s unclear that O’Brien would have done so. But Edsall is not allowing O’Brien to make that move."
Frankly, I'm not sure Vanderbilt needs another Quarterback. We've got 4 on the roster, including a guy who showed flashes of brilliance and led the team to only their second bowl appearance since 1982. But that's not the issue. Randy Edsall is holding a player hostage because he doesn't like the fact that the guy Maryland let go in order to hire him has been more successful than he has at a harder job in a better conferece. If I was a Maryland fan, I'd be outraged.
I guess it could be worse, Edsall could by Phil Martelli, St. Joe's Head Basketball Coach who is refusing to release Todd O'Brien (maybe it's an O'Brien thing), a player who graduated and wanted to persue a graduate degree at a school that offered another program, thereby enabling him to play at UAB during his final year of NCAA eligibiltiy. Not exactly sterling company for Randy to emulate. Danny O'Brien's situation won't get, nor does it deserve, the attention being paid to Todd O'Brien. After all, Danny will be able to play somewhere for 2 years, while it is looking increasinly likely that Todd will not. The two predicaments aren't equilivant, but they do shed light on an overal problem in college sports and that makes the NCAA (and its member institutions) look more like obtuse desots than institutions of higher learning.
Shame on you, Randy Edsall.
UPDATE: Pre-Snap Read has a very good piece on this by Paul Myerburg that is worth a read.