Listen up, NCAA: Herm Edwards spits the truth at Arizona State on 'cutting' players

USATSI

The NCAA sends many messages about athletics being a mere elective compared to the overarching noble pursuit of a degree. Compare that to the message Herm Edwards sent to his players this week: You can keep your scholarship, but if you're not good enough as a player you'll be dropped from the roster.

Actually, it wasn't that nice. Without exactly saying the word in this video, Arizona State's new coach suggested players might be "cut" in the next couple of weeks.

"It ain't 'might,'" quarterback Manny Wilkins told azcentral.com. "He's going to cut some people."

Edwards made public a harsh truth in college athletics. New coaches routinely "run off" players who don't fit the plan. There are different ways of accomplishing this task. We usually don't get to view how players are told their services are no longer required. 

At Arizona State, "Hard Knocks, Tempe" is all out in the open.

All of it sounds cruel, savage, and professional, just like the NFL. Actually, it's all those things. Welcome to major-college athletics.

"It's professionalism at its finest," Wilkins added. "It's going to be a rude awakening when they go from student-athlete to student. I think that's how it has to be. There's got to be competition at every single point."

Edwards may or may not succeed coaching in college for the first time in 29 years. But it won't be because of his dealing in semantics -- or pity.

"It's always evaluation, it's always participation," Edwards told reporters. "That is your resume when you practice. If you continue to stay hurt and stay in the training room, you got no tape. Can't grade you if you got no tape. All the sudden some guys got well."

Just to be clear, that's questioning the character of some of his players. And with that kind of language, it may be time to discuss whether those players should be immediately eligible if they are run off and transfer.

That wasn't discussed in a commercial in heavy rotation during the NCAA Tournament. It featured the usual NCAA propaganda about putting the "student" in student-athlete.

That's a noble stance, but it's not one rooted in reality, at least at the top level where the NCAA makes most of its money and faces most of its scrutiny. Consider those are paid actors defending the amateur model in that commercial. You don't need Edwards' comment to reinforce big-time college football's culture.

It can be about being an indentured athlete-student. It can be about taking classes that don't bump up against practice. It can be about taking degree programs that don't bump up against … learning.

Sometimes, it's about majoring in eligibility. Ask those basketball one-and-dones.

"You are an employee of a team," Josh Rosen told me in 2016. "You are a professional football player who goes to the university."

You don't have to like any of this or even agree. But pause for a moment and try to be educated. The National Letter of Intent doesn't tell you a coach can run you off. All it guarantees is a scholarship -- not a minute of playing time.

It ignores the blunt words of Herm and his philosophy. The man and the school are on record. Arizona State is going to be run like an NFL franchise

President Michael Crow might as well be the owner. Herm is the GM. The coaches?  To be determined. The players? Edwards is sort of reinforcing Rosen's quote above.

All of it is meant to be new and innovative. It absolutely has been forthright. Edwards inherited this roster. He wants to craft his own. He deserves that. But the coach laid bare a common practice in a sport that can be more like the NFL than you think.

Three years ago the Power Five conferences gave themselves the option of guaranteeing four-year scholarships. That it took until 2015 for that to happen is outrageous, but a discussion for another time. Since that time, scholarships cannot be taken away for athletics reasons. 

Roster spots still can be ripped on a whim, just like the NFL. At Arizona State, isn't that the point?

Edwards went on to say he doesn't need anywhere near the 85 scholarships he is granted by the NCAA.

"How know many guys play in a game? Forty-five guys," Edwards said. "Your ones and your twos, some special teams guys. That's the truth."

It's also the truth that if Arizona State "cut" that many scholarships, it wouldn't be in Division I anymore. But that too is another discussion for another time.

For now, cut-down day is fast approaching in Tempe. Perhaps it's best to consider paraphrasing the Sun Devil coach's most famous quote

"You play to stay in the two-deep."

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories