After ESPN and SEC Network personality Paul Finebaum called new UConn head coach Randy Edsall’s decision to pull a scholarship from a verbal commit two weeks before National Signing Day a “total disgrace,” some Huskies’ fans investigated his previous comments on scholarship issues and found some apparent inconsistencies. The most interesting one comes from @HuskyCast:
— JimdishCT (@HuskyCast) January 17, 2017
The video in there is Finebaum’s comments on Tuesday’s edition of College Football Live. The audio link is to a .mp3 version of his Jan. 21, 2016 show discussing the controversy over Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh pulling a scholarship from offensive lineman Erik Swenson just two weeks before National Signing Day. The first 13 minutes or so of the show are Finebaum interviewing Chicago Tribune reporter Teddy Greenstein, who’s quite critical of Harbaugh’s move, but around 14:00, Finebaum takes a call and says this is a relatively common practice:
“I’m not defending Harbaugh at all, but sometimes, you never know the circumstances. I’ve heard a lot of cases like this, and most of them do not… There was one last year, a pretty prominent case, and I can’t remember who it was with, but some player just got deep-sixed pretty badly.”
The rest of that conversation doesn’t really touch on that again, but shortly after 19:00 when Finebaum takes the next call, he again defends Harbaugh (over a question about recruiting sleepovers). At 19:22, he says this:
“I don’t want to become the lone defender of Jim Harbaugh in this country, but I’m going to. I don’t think Harbaugh isn’t doing anything that everyone else isn’t doing. Nick Saban has tried to circumvent every rule in the NCAA rulebook and has mostly gotten away with it. I’m not saying he’s breaking rules, he’s pushing the envelope. I once asked a recruiter ‘How do you do it?’ and he said ‘You skirt the rule, you go over the line, and then you get back when no one is watching,’ and that’s Saban, that’s Harbaugh, that’s Urban Meyer. I just think Jim Harbaugh has just become a pinata for the media, including our last guest, Teddy Greenstein, and everyone else, and I’m laughing at it, because Harbaugh continues to be the conversation piece. Watch! Jim Harbaugh’s having a great recruiting year. …I’m going to be really surprised if Harbaugh doesn’t win a national championship here very soon.”
Finebaum then goes on to say “Nick Saban’s been doing this from the first day,” and there certainly have been plenty of criticisms of Saban for oversigning and pulling scholarships late (in some cases, after players had already moved into dorms). Those are perhaps even less defensible, too; Saban was in place, whereas Edsall was taking over a previous coach’s commitments.
So, yeah, there’s certainly a case that Finebaum is much more upset (“a total disgrace”) when it’s a school like UConn pulling scholarships late rather than Alabama or Michigan. All of these situations do have some complexities, and perhaps there’s a justifiable reason for Finebaum to defend Harbaugh (interestingly enough, someone from a school he’s heavily criticized much of the rest of the time) and Saban while going after Edsall for what appears to be a similar decision. From the outside, though, this appears highly inconsistent logic at best.