U-Conned: Raritan’s Ryan Dickens Has Scholarship Offer Pulled By UConn Just 17 Days Before Signing Day
*Scroll down for video reaction from ESPN's Paul Finebaum and Marcus Spears*
Stunned would an accurate way to describe how I felt upon reading Matt Stanmyre's story on NJ.com this morning that University of Connecticut's football program had left Raritan senior Ryan Dicken's out in the cold.
I can't begin to imagine how Dickens felt when his eagerness to answer a phone call Sunday night from Huskies head coach Randy Edsall quickly turned to disgust.
A senior linebacker for Raritan, Dickens had been committed to UConn since the middle of June, but that was under the former regime and head coach Bob Diaco. On Dec. 26 UConn fired Diaco after a 3-9 season, leaving many recruits, including Dickens, in limbo. Dickens was realistic about the prospect that Edsall (who coached UConn from 1999-2010 before heading to the University of Maryland where he was recently fired, then brought back to UConn) may not be willing to keep him. The commitments given by both players and schools are, after all, non-binding until signing day. However, on New Year's Day Edsall called Dickens to assure him his future with UConn was not in jeopardy.
Dickens is also a wrestler for Raritan, and during a match against Long Branch last week I chatted up Dickens' parents, Matt and Patti, about the situation. They were relieved that it all worked out through the coaching change, but unfortunately the good feelings didn't last long.
Instead, Edsall and UConn ripped the rug right from under Dickens with no remorse, leaving him little time to pick up the pieces. Dickens was walking with his parents to their car after an awards banquet where Dickens was honored with a 2016 Mini Maxwell Award. Aside from being a standout on the gridiron, Dickens boasts a 3.9 GPA and is involved in several charities, most notably the RAINE Foundation his family founded, which proves food, clothing and more for families in need. Edsall told Dickens they were going in another direction and there was no longer a scholarship for him. The conversation they had two weeks ago now meant nothing.
“Ryan stuck by them through their turmoil and their regime change, and now in a crucial moment they’ve decided to let him go,” Raritan head coach Anthony Petruzzi told NJ.com. “He’s having a hard time right now realizing that the last seven months of preparation is not going to see itself out. He’s devastated. But he’s a tough kid. He got knocked down today but he’s going to get up tomorrow and realize his dream."
Dickens' story has gained national attention with several media outlets picking up the story, while ESPN even devoted a segment to it on its College Football Live program. College football analyst Paul Finebaum called it "a total disgrace", while Marcus Spears chimed in as well.
Dickens being committed to UConn since June meant he wasn't fielding offers from other schools. According to Stanmyre's story, Dickens had just told Monmouth no thanks, that he was sticking with UConn. After UConn dumped Dickens and left him scrambling he reached back out to Monmouth, but the Hawks had already filled the open position. Such is the case this deep into the recruiting cycle. Before giving his verbal commitment to UConn, Dickens had offers from Cornell and Monmouth along with interest from Northwestern, Rutgers, Temple and Navy.
Some good news came Tuesday when Rhode Island, an FCS program, offered Dickens a scholarship. He'll land somewhere, but it's been a tumultuous 72 hours for the soon-to-be 18-year old.
Sadly this isn't anything new in major college football, and apparently nothing new for Edsall either. Dickens' case is a harsh reminder that college football is more of a business than people are willing to accept.
Is there a lesson here? Don't trust any coach or recruiter or buy their diatribes on loyalty and what not. Major college football is a cold-hearted business, and a big one at that. Edsall isn't the first coach to screw over a recruit and he certainly won't be the last.
Ryan Dickens will land on his feet because he's a good football player and a high-character person, but that's also the part that makes this whole situation so agonizing.
Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights