First-year Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards announced last week that he told players cuts were likely coming for some if their play didn't improve through the team's spring game on April 13. When asked to clarify his statements, Edwards told ESPN on Monday that he plans to meet with a few players, including some he feels have "packed it in," next Monday, and that they could be cut from the football team.
"Basically, everyone does this," Edwards said. "It's nothing new. People are acting like I'm doing something different, I'm not doing anything different. I'm basically telling guys -- and there's not going to be that many of them, but there's a few -- that if it doesn't look like they're going to be helping us on this football team, then they become students. If they want to transfer, we'll help them transfer."
Edwards maintained that any players cut from the football program would still be able to keep their financial aid if they decide to stay at ASU as students.
According to Pac-12 rules, all athletic scholarships will be guaranteed for four years and "can neither be reduced nor canceled provided the student-athlete remains in good standing and meets his/her terms of the agreement." In addition, beginning with the 2015-16 academic year, conference rules require that financial aid agreements offered to incoming athletes be "for no less than four academic years."
The Pac-12 has not been in contact with Edwards about his comments, and a conference spokesman told ESPN there won't be any need for discussion as long as he complies with the Pac-12's scholarship rules by allowing cut players to keep their financial assistance as students.
"People think I'm taking their scholarship away and running them off," Edwards said. "I'm not running them off at all. Some of them ain't good enough. It's no one's fault, but it's like, 'Hey, man, what are we doing here?'
"I'm just being honest. I'm telling the truth. Here's how it works, guys."
Edwards said he isn't worried about potential cuts putting the Sun Devils behind in scholarship numbers because of an NCAA rule that allows first-year head coaches to retain numbers lost from cuts by backfilling them with their next recruiting class if those players don't play for the new coach and were already on scholarship under the previous coach. In that situation, players who are cut do not count toward the 85 scholarships limit.
NCAA bylaw 18.104.22.168 states: A student-athlete who receives athletically related institutional financial aid in subsequent academic years after the departure of a head coach from the institution is not a counter, provided:
• (a) The student-athlete participated in the applicable sport and received athletically related institutional financial aid during the coach's tenure at the institution; and
• (b) The student-athlete does not participate in the applicable sport during subsequent academic years at the institution.
"This is how it works. I didn't invent the rule, it's in the book," Edwards said. "That's not nothing we're making up. That's a rule.
"This is nothing new, except the head coach doesn't announce it. I just told them the truth from the beginning. This ain't no big deal or revelation to anybody that's been in college football."
Edwards' initial comments drew strong criticism, especially on social media, but he's well within NCAA rules to cut players, and starting quarterback Manny Wilkins stood by his head coach's decision to shake up the roster.
"It ain't 'might.' He's going to cut some people," Wilkins told reporters last week. "When you get to the league [NFL], your locker one day is going to be cleaned out. It's the harsh and brutal reality of football. We've only got five practices left. I bet you'll see a difference in some guys now in their attitude and how they're acting. We want to keep everybody. We want everybody to have an opportunity, but if you ain't understanding and working how he wants you to work, sayonara.
"It's professionalism at its finest. 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."
Edwards said he wasn't trying to be controversial or orchestrate a publicity stunt with his comments, but he does want to do what's best for his football team.
"Competitive consistency, that's what we're looking for," he said. "It sets a little fire under some guys, too. I know one thing ... when I told them last week, it was amazing how many guys all of a sudden it registered. They ain't messing around, no, we're not. We're doing what's right for the program, so that's what we gotta do."