Sports

A UConn Recruit Got His Scholarship Pulled, And That's More Common Than You Think

The slightly more hidden world of schools dropping high school recruits

by Mike Piellucci
Jan 17 2017, 7:33pm

Here is a thing that unequivocally sucks: Ryan Dickens, a high school linebacker from New Jersey who had been committed since June to play football for UConn, just had his scholarship offer revoked two weeks before National Signing Day, according to a report from NJ.com.

In a nutshell, Dickens committed to former UConn coach Bob Diaco, who was fired after the Huskies mushed their way to a 3-9 record last season. Diaco was replaced by Randy Edsall in late December, and reportedly assured Dickens on New Year's Day that his scholarship was safe. Then, on Sunday, Edsall called to inform him that, "We're going in a different direction. We don't have a spot for you."

So, yeah, this is really shitty, particularly the bit about Edsall reversing course on his opinion of Dickens even faster than the college football landscape reversed course on its opinion that Randy Edsall is a good coach. Accordingly, a whole lot of deserved outrage has been deposited on the Internet. Websites are aggregating it. ESPN apparently is going to devote a television segment to it.

The story has made the rounds so quickly because Dickens' situation is being treated like an anomaly—that, in effect, a good system built on good faith has been abused, and a well-meaning kid is on the bad end of it. The second part is absolutely true: Recruiting is a slimy, disgusting game in which schools often treat treat teenagers kids like disposable flotsam, while teenagers are usually vilified whenever they act the same way.

But this story is an anomaly only in the sense that Edsall was up front about his intentions not to fax Dickens a National Letter of Intent. The far more prevalent method of ghosting on recruits—as in, happens at every single program, all throughout the year, and will definitely happen a lot more prior to Signing Day—is to simply pull as much contact as possible from a recruit the school has soured on, until they take the hint and withdraw their commitment. The player then announces that his recruitment is open, and that he or she is open to new suitors. Rarely, if ever, is the actual reason discussed.

Case in point, here's a tweet from Jake Byczko, who like Dickens was a longtime commit to UConn's old coach coaching staff and just happened to decommit yesterday, and, oh, yep, this is probably a total coincidence:

In message board parlance, this is called "making room" or "processing." USC fans even have a term for it-—Mickens-ed, in reference to Jaydon Mickens, a slot receiver who had been committed for months and was pushed out to free up another scholarship. That's how ubiquitous the process is and how desensitized those who actually pay attention to the recruiting landscape are to situations like Ryan Dickens': They assigned a proper name to it.

Which is gross, of course. But according to 247Sports, 533 kids have withdrawn a verbal commitment from a school this year, and you can bet that a very healthy portion of those withdrawals were not entirely voluntary. The only difference between this story and all the others is that Edsall and Dickens each broke the "don't ask, don't tell" omerta of the recruiting game in their own way, in effect turning the story into something consumable and publishable, instead of an off-the-record whisper that can plausibly be denied.

You should be angry at how UConn and Randy Edsall treated Ryan Dickens. But you should be even more disgusted at the legion of other coaches who lack the decency to make the phone call at all, and the system that rewards such behavior. By telling Dickens directly that he just wasn't that into him, Edsall subjected himself to far more backlash than if he had simply let Dickens twist in the wind until frustration drove him elsewhere. Of course, that doesn't make any of this honorable. UConn almost certainly will fill Dickens' spot with a more highly-touted player.

This is how the system works, and there is no end in sight. Ryan Dickens' name will be out of the news cycle by tomorrow, but recruitments like his will continue to happen.

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