Randy Edsall's son will coach tight ends for his father for one football season at UConn, despite new findings by the state's ethics office that the arrangement violates bans against nepotism and a father helping to negotiate a contract for his son.
Ethics lawyers are recommending that the state ethics board take no action against Randy Edsall or UConn, and that Corey Edsall be kept in the $95,000-per-year job for this coming season — as long as the one-year pact is not renewed.
The ethics board recognizes the "potential disruption" to UConn's football program if Corey Edsall were prohibited from coaching this year, the draft opinion states. It will be presented to the state's citizen ethics advisory board at its July 20 meeting.
UConn "respectfully disagrees" with the draft ruling, spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said in a statement Friday. The university said Edsall wasn't a state employee when he became involved in the details of his son's contract, and said nepotism doesn't apply because Corey Edsall would be supervised by the offensive coordinator and the athletic director or a designee, not his father.
The draft opinion said it would be "absurd" to believe Randy Edsall would not be his son's boss. The opinion notes that it isn't unusual across the country for sons to coach in their father's major-college football programs, but states that Connecticut isn't willing to overlook the nepotism clause in the state ethics code to allow that to happen in this instance.
The draft opinion rejects UConn's assertions that it was proper for Randy Edsall to negotiate details of the job for his son, concluding that Edsall was a state employee on Dec. 28, the date he and UConn executed his contract. Edsall's renewed relationship with UConn began when he received and accepted the offer, the ethics lawyers found.
"It is with great pleasure that I offer you the position of head football coach for the University of Connecticut," Athletic Director David Benedict wrote to Edsall in the opening passage of the contract on Dec. 28 "Your acceptance of this offer will constitute a a binding agreement between you and UConn."
UConn had contended that Randy Edsall was not a state employee when negotiations about his son's job were going on because Jan. 3 was his first day of work.
"To conclude otherwise — that is, to hold that Randy Edsall was not a 'state employee' at the point he and UConn executed his the employment contract — would defy common sense and lead to an absurd result," the opinion states.
The university said in a statement Friday that people become state employees "when they actually begin their jobs at the state."
"If someone accepts an offer of state employment, but will not start their state job for six weeks, the code of ethics does not apply to them during that six-week period." UConn's statement says. "It applies when they begin working for the state. This is a well-established precedent in Connecticut which has been understood and applied in cases for decades."
Beth Goetz, the COO for the UConn Athletic Department, emailed Randy Edsall on Jan. 1 asking for information needed to write an offer letter to Corey Edsall, including Corey Edsall's start date, salary, position and whether UConn would pay moving expenses and provide temporary housing, the opinion states.
On the same day, Randy Edsall wrote back to Goetz, who forwarded the email to Benedict:
"Corey will start on Monday, January 9th and I would like to pay him $100,000.00."
Randy Edsall also wrote that his son would be coaching "one of the skilled positions on offense."
"If it has to be specific right now, it would be Tight Ends. Could change, but don't think so," Edsall wrote.
Randy Edsall also told Goetz that UConn should pay Corey Edsall's moving expenses.
UConn ultimately revised Corey Edsall's salary to $95,000, the draft opinion states.
According to the draft ruling, UConn's director of compliance, Kimberly Fearney, contacted the state ethics office to get an opinion on the hiring of Corey Edsall, but did so using a "hypothetical" situation without saying Randy Edsall and his son were involved.
"The university is recruiting a candidate for a position. As part of the negotiations, one of the conditions sought is a position [for the candidate's] immediate family," Fearney's request for an opinion began.
The ethics office legal division did not learn that UConn had hired Corey Edsall until reading it in The Hartford Courant on Jan. 9.
Fearney later told the ethics office that "initial decisions" regarding Corey Edsall's salary, as well as his supervision and job evaluations, would be "dictated by the Director of Athletics or his designee" — who was "not subordinate" to the head coach.
UConn argues that the Office of State Ethics "confirmed for UConn before Randy Edsall was offered employment that the Code of Ethics does not prohibit a candidate from negotiating employment for a family member as a condition of their own employment."
The ethics advisory board, "in this instance, is attempting to hold Coach Edsall and the university to a different standard than others are held to, which defies longstanding Connecticut precedent. An irrelevant case from Michigan is cited in the board's opinion, rather than Connecticut law," the statement says.
UConn's lawyers said the ethics code does not forbid family members from working in the same state department or office.
"What the code forbids is a state employee using [his or her] employment for the financial benefit of a family member," UConn's statement says. "In this case, employment and financial decisions regarding Corey Edsall – and Corey Edsall's supervisor – are in the hands of the Athletic Director, not Coach Edsall. By establishing this management plan, the university is in compliance with the code of ethics."
The new opinion also rejects UConn's contention that Randy Edsall would not be directly supervising his son or his son's immediate supervisor, the offensive coordinator. Such direct supervision of a family member would be a conflict of interest, according to state law.
"UConn's assertion that its Head Football Coach will refrain from supervising (and evaluating) not just the tight ends coach, but also his offensive coordinator is, to quote a former Supreme Court Justice, 'so absurd as to be self-refuting,'" the opinion states.
The draft ruling notes that it is common for football coaches at major colleges to employ their sons on their staffs but that many of those coaches have said they were given "special permission."
"We don't have the statutory authority to grant such "special permission" in this instance, nor do we have the inclination to participate in what amounts to a 'wink-and-a-smile' at the Code's conflict rules," the draft ruling states.