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Randy Edsall Talks O’Bannon Lawsuit, Compensating Players


Randy, trotting his way to glory.Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

As a football coach Randy Edsall is about the furthest thing from controversial. He prefers the mundane (from earrings and facial hair to his own vanilla-ish ice cream) in most facets of life, so when he makes very strong comments about anything, it shocks you like a cattle prod would — just enough to get you to pay attention.

That’s exactly what Randy did on Monday’s ACC Football Kickoff event; he poked the fan base with a cow prod. Speaking to a number of reporters, Edsall chimed in on the subject of the Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit. For those that don’t know, the lawsuit challenges the notion that the NCAA and Electronic Arts are allowed monetize and profit from video games which use the likeness of college athletes, without the athletes themselves reaping any of the rewards. The entire suit is pretty heavy stuff, the implications of which could completely change the NCAA’s business model.

Now, the NCAA has urged players to think before joining the lawsuit, which could eventually reach class-action status. But if Randy Edsall were a student-athlete today would he join in on the pushback against the NCAA? It’s pretty clear from his “most definitely” response that he would.

“Kids are committed to institutions, not to the NCAA,” Edsall said. “And the NCAA is using their likeness to make money. And that money isn’t going back to these kids.”

For coach Edsall to come out with a statement like that, one in which he takes a pretty clean-cut stance on a controversial topic, says a lot about the normally reserved gridiron general. Very few (if any) collegiate football coaches have clearly come out in favor of the lawsuit, so Edsall’s comments could very well represent the catalyst that pits not only players — but now coaches — against the institution which they technically work for.

Considering how calculated Edsall typically is, you get the feeling that he understood very clearly the ramifications and weight of his comments. It can’t make the NCAA very happy to learn that one of their coaches is basically openly against them, but in this instance Edsall is spot on.

“I’m just concerned about where the game is headed because I think this is the greatest team sport of them all, and the things I see that are happening are concerning as a coach,” Edsall said. “I don’t want to see this game go away and I don’t know if that will happen.”

It sounds as if (without reading too much into the comments) Edsall feels the players ought to be compensated in one way or another. Note: Edsall isn’t advocating a “pay the players” position, at all. He is simply implying that the profiteering by the NCAA and Electronic Arts, without acknowledging the players themselves, isn’t the right model to go by. And he’s probably right about that.

“I think the players should get some kind of monthly stipend for what they do,” Edsall said. “They get a Pell Grant during the fall and spring semesters, but now they’re with us for nine weeks in the summertime. They don’t get anything. And they’re still going to school and they’re still taking classes,”

“Now granted, they can work. But again, if they work full-time, then they have to take that money and use it to pay for their food and housing, because you can’t subsidize them from an athlete department. Those are some of the issues that have to be determined.”

It takes guts to come out and be a proponent of something when a lot of coaches aren’t, and props to Rangoon for doing so. Should college athletes be paid for their “work”? In my opinion, probably yes. It is an incredibly tough situation to deal with, but it’s one that needs to be hashed out because there are more and more people in favor of finding a fair solution. What that is, I’m not remotely qualified to suggest, but Edsall is right in continuing to roll the ball.

Your move, NCAA.