Monday, February 13, 2012

#FreeDannyOBrien; or Why Randy Edsall is a Hoser

Quarterback Danny O'Brien, the 2010 ACC Rookie of Year, has requested (and been granted) a release from the University of Maryland football program. Eric Prisbell, the Washington Post's Maryland beat report who Commodore fans came to know well during the saga surrounding the hiring of James Franklin, sets the scene very well:
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.


Tom said...

I've been following this as well, and am most curious about why Vanderbilt was included. Prisbell's latest mentions implications of improper contact by Vandy with O'Brien. Given that O'Brien and CJF are tight, would any guidance from CJF be considered improper?

Seamus O'Toole said...


You raise an important point -- the improper contact accusation is definitely figuring into the subtext of why Vandy was excluded (note that the exclusion was not just for O'Brien, but also for OL Max Garcia and LB Mario Rowson). According to Prisbell, "the insinuation is that something untoward may have occurred, and it raises the question of whether premature contact may have occurred between Vanderbilt and some of the Maryland players."

In response to your question, I may be wrong but my understanding is that there is a continuing "no contact" rule once LOIs are signed. Coaches are not allowed to have any contact with players once they have signed the letter of intent with another institution, and the obligation to refrain from contact continues after the player has enrolled and is on scholarship. Only after the transfer release has been granted can the athlete have contact with other schools.

Although I can't claim any inside knowledge, I have a hard time believing CJF would be stupid enough to have contacted O'Brien or these two other kids before a release was authorized. What I would find more plausible is that O'Brien may have reached out to CJF or one of the assistants on his own accord. But in that case, I think CJF is under an obligation to report the communication to the NCAA. Someone correct me if I have the rules wrong.

The bottom line for me is this: I'm not going to assume there was a violation without something more than innuendo. And if Edsall and other folks at Maryland are making this insinuation (or at least not attempting to refute it) as a pretext for what is in fact just a sinister kind of hostage-holding, as O'Shea's post suggests it is, then that just adds more ammo to the attack on Edsall's character.