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UConn’s Randy Edsall says college football’s a ‘farm system’ and calls for players to be paid

Edsall used a new NCAA rule to make his point.

Connecticut v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

Randy Edsall thinks college football players should be paid. In a series of tweets on Friday, Edsall stated his case, using one recently passed NCAA rule to underline it:

The occasion for Edsall’s comment was a Yahoo Sports report published Friday morning, which named names in the FBI’s ongoing investigation into college basketball corruption. The report detailed alleged payments from agents to players. That is a terrible crime by NCAA standards, but it’s not a crime in the real world, where people get paid for work.

The rule Edsall uses to illustrate his point is interesting.

It’s interesting because it’s actually a good rule! FBS teams have a head coach and 10 on-field “assistant coaches.” (They used to have nine, but that changed in January.) But every team has dozens more staff members, many of whom work as “analysts” or under the umbrella of “recruiting operations” or “coordination” or something like that.

Assistant coaches are allowed to do more recruiting than all of those nominally non-coaching staff members. One limitation on those staffers had been that, technically, they weren’t allowed to “evaluate” potential recruits for their teams. That was silly and unenforceable, because anyone can watch a player’s highlight tape on Hudl and then exclaim, “That kid’s pretty good!” It was an unenforceable restriction.

So the NCAA’s Power 5 conferences voted to make an exception for on-campus evaluations of video and in-person camps. That gets rid of an impossible monitoring requirement, which the SEC had in mind when it proposed the rule. The policy change is now in effect for all the power conferences, with the mid-majors allowed to follow suit.

But there’s hypocrisy in the rule change, too.

It’s another step toward professionalizing college football, even as players continue to not get paid for the billions of dollars their sport generates.

College programs already had de-facto scouting departments that were the size of small armies. Those are now above board and official. College teams can pay as many people as they want to spend time and expertise evaluating players. (Another proposed rule would’ve limited teams to 30 designated on-campus recruiters, but that’s been tabled.)

But they still can’t pay the players, at least not officially, even as everything around the sport starts to look more and more like professional football. Coaching staffs grew by one this year, and this move makes it easier for support staffs to grow along with them. All of those people get money for their contributions to college football. Players don’t.

Edsall does not have a reputation as a progressive advocate for players. He’s long been known as an old-fashioned disciplinarian, and he has rarely spoken at length about reforming college sports to make it more pro-player. But he’s right about this issue.