UConn's Edsall: Paying college players 'inevitable'

STORRS, Conn. -- UConn football coach Randy Edsall believes one of the NCAA's favorite terms, "student-athlete," is disingenuous and outdated. The veteran coach said it's inevitable and overdue for college sports to start giving players a chance to make money.

Edsall, who has spent most of his four-decade coaching career in college football, said in an interview with ESPN that the sport has outgrown its amateur past and has been "professionalized."

"The NCAA, they run these commercials about student-athletes," Edsall said as his Huskies began their August training camp last week. "It ain't a student anymore. It's just athlete."

The NCAA started using the term "student-athlete" during the late 1950s when it faced the threat, via a lawsuit, of having to pay workers' compensation benefits for scholarship players. The NCAA won the lawsuit and has since used the term to punctuate its stated academic mission and the amateur status of its participants.

Edsall played quarterback at Syracuse in the late 1970s and has been a head coach for all but one season since 1999. He said the time demand put on players and the amount of money generated by college sports has evolved to make the old system "archaic."

"When I played, you played 10 games. You were home for Thanksgiving. You weren't there in the summertime," Edsall said. "Now the demands are [higher] and the money is available."

Edsall suggested putting money in a trust fund that players could access when they graduate or allowing players to profit from endorsements that use their name, image and likeness. Edsall previously spoke out about his feeling on paying players this winter and more recently offered verbal support to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) for his efforts in trying to drum up support for legislation that would open the door to paying players.

Murphy is one of several politicians who has tried to pressure the NCAA to change its amateur model in the past few years. Congressman Mark Walker from North Carolina has proposed a bill that would allow players to make money from endorsements. California's state legislators are expected to vote on a bill in the coming months that would make it illegal for schools in the state to prevent players from accepting endorsement money.

The bills have prompted the NCAA to assemble a working group to study potential options for allowing players to make more than the cost-of-attendance scholarships they currently receive. That group meets Tuesday of this week to update the NCAA's board of governors on its initial progress and is expected to deliver a report of its findings in October.

"We've started to get senators and congressmen involved, I think it's inevitable at some point in time," Edsall said. "When it is, I don't know, but I really believe it's going to happen."

Edsall, who makes a base salary of $1 million per year as part of a five-year contract that includes a large amount of performance-based bonuses, said there are no coaches who deserve to be making $7 million or $9 million per year. According to a USA Today database, four head coaches made at least $7 million in 2018. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney signed a new contract after winning the national championship in January that will pay him $93 million over the next 10 years.

"I think there are a lot of guys, a lot of coaches that feel that way," Edsall said. "Something's gotta be done."