When Randy Edsall arrived for lunch on a recent March afternoon, he brought with him a plan to reform college football recruiting and a few sheets of paper to help explain.
One page had data, like the rates at which high school football players move onto NCAA football (6.5 percent) and NCAA players advance to the NFL (1.6 percent). Another printout was pulled from the NCAA’s Web site. It listed the organization’s new academic eligibility requirements, scheduled for implementation in 2016. Edsall laid these onto the table, pointed to them and made his argument.
“What are we emphasizing here?” he said. “We’re increasing the standards, but what incentive are we giving?”
The crux of Edsall’s proposal, explained in more detail for Wednesday’s print edition, is this: He wants to restructure the scholarship-offer process by limiting them to high school seniors and transfer the power to offer scholarships to admissions officers, who would give final approval before the offers are sent out on Sept. 1 of a prospect’s final high school year. Edsall views extending offers to younger recruits, like eighth- and ninth-graders, as a foolish practice because their academic record has barely begun to form. The evaluation process wouldn’t change; just the method through which offers are given.
“The positive point, it cuts down on the distractions for the kid,” said Dave Mencarini, the longtime Quince Orchard coach who’s now at Urbana. “I think it allows universities to be more selective and, let’s be honest, sometimes a kid gets an offer then 20 schools offer him because Alabama does. It cuts down on that process. I like the idea of making sure the kid can get into school first.”
This evoked an interesting tangent with Edsall, one that didn’t make it into the print story. Entering his fourth season as the Maryland football coach, Edsall employs some uniquely conservative recruiting standards, particularly concerning the offer process.
Unlike some other schools, whose assistants parachute into talent hotbeds with license to distribute offers like campaign buttons, only one member of the Terrapins coaching staff can offer a scholarship to a recruit: Edsall. Everyone is involved — two weeks before spring practice began, all the position coaches spoke with Edsall and presented film on possible recruits — but he has final say.
Take new wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell, for example. McCardell, a Houston native who played for 17 season in the NFL, mostly with the Jacksonville Jaguars, recruits South Florida, Delaware and Houston. During evaluation periods, Maryland dispatches McCardell to these areas, where he mines local high schools for future Terps.
If someone piques McCardell’s interest – say, a defensive lineman — he returns the film back to Gossett Team House, where he shares it with the recruit’s position coach, in this case fellow first-year assistant Chad Wilt. After that, recruiting coordinator John Dunn checks the film. Collectively, they decide whether to pass along the recruit to Edsall, at which point Edsall makes his decision based on the film and a transcript report from the admissions office.
“We’re going to do our due diligence,” He said. “How do you have any commonality? How do you know who’s the best if you don’t sit down and evaluate?”
The Terps, at times, have been guilty of pulling the same recruiting moves Edsall views as problematic. They have offered scholarships to recruits with poor grades, in the hopes they shape up before they get to Maryland. They also have offered scholarships to ninth-graders, like incoming offensive lineman Damian Prince. And they have also made offers conditional on academic improvement.
But, in Edsall’s ideal world, none of this would happen.
“We can get in line with how a kid’s really admitted to the university,” he said. “It’s allowing everyone to make a better evaluation. Let them be kids and get it done in the classroom.”