The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Weighing the pros, cons of Husky job
UConn athletic director Dave Benedict has a big job ahead, one that should take many months to complete. And as history has proven, there is no guarantee that the final product will necessarily deliver the desired result. He must hire a football coach. The last time Benedict was tasked with this, he opted for familiarity and experience, convincing Randy Edsall to return home years after their awkward breakup. Edsall seemed like a safe choice, given his past success at UConn and ties to the state, but wound up failing miserably.
And so, Benedict finds himself having to do this all over again.
It won’t be an easy sell. Losing has become commonplace for the Huskies, and this year’s 0-2 start only magnifies just how far the program has to go to became respectable again, let alone relevant.
As the school begins to compile its list of candidates, let’s look at what may — or may not — be attractive about the opening in Storrs.
Low expectations: Getting whacked 45-0 by Fresno State was embarrassing enough for a team that talked all offseason about being better positioned to win. Then, it lost to Holy Cross. Ouch.
If this isn’t rock bottom, what is? The Huskies are 6-32 over the last three-plus seasons under Edsall and have made just one bowl game since appearing in the Fiesta Bowl in 2011. At this point, fans are starved for a win, any win.
Nobody is expecting Edsall’s replacement to come in and turn this program around overnight. It’s not possible. There is no quick fix. That said, the expectations are low enough that it won’t take much to win over the fanbase.
Edsall is due $1.15 million this season of his $1.256 million salary because he is officially retiring on Dec. 1. Though his salary was low compared to his former colleagues in the American Athletic Conference and among Power Five head coaches, it ranked middle of the pack nationally — more than most coaches in the MAC, Conference USA and Sun Belt.
That sort of money won’t help UConn land a big fish — comparatively speaking, another FBS head coach — but it should be enough to lure some Power Five assistants, although perhaps not top coordinators. Administration can only help its case by providing a healthy assistants’ pool.
It helps that Edsall won’t be owed a buyout.
Quality facilities: Nearly 20 years after first opening its gates, Rentschler Field remains a solid, if unspectacular, home for UConn. The biggest knock may be its location: 25 miles from campus.
But the Burton Family Football Complex is a stateof-the-art, on-campus facility. UConn has also received donations for improvements and upgrades, so the program will maintain an elite training facility. The facility exceeds what some Power Five schools offer.
No tradition: In basketball, UConn is a national brand. The men’s program has won four NCAA titles and produced a slew of NBA talent, including Naismith Hall of Famer Ray Allen, while the women’s team has established itself as the best in the sport with 11 national championships.
And football? The constant losing has eroded attendance and demoralized fans, to the point where the program barely registers outside of Connecticut. And that doesn’t figure to change anytime soon. Most fans are probably already asking themselves: When is First Night?
It’s been 10 years since UConn’s improbable run to the New Year’s Day Fiesta Bowl. The program has been gliding downhill since.
No fertile recruiting ground:
In short, the Northeast is a difficult place to recruit. The Huskies have just 18 Connecticut natives on their roster, and neighboring states traditionally don’t churn out enough talent to make a real difference. This means they must branch out to other regions to win recruiting battles, and there isn’t a whole lot of tradition for the coaching staff to sell.
Former UConn quarterback and Connecticut native Dan Orlovsky, the program’s most famous alum, had a successful NFL career. However, today’s recruits may know him more for his work on ESPN.
No conference affiliation:
The move back to the Big East returned the school to its roots but left the football program toiling in uncertainty as an independent. While the Huskies now have more flexibility with their schedule than they did in the American Athletic Conference, they no longer reap the benefits associated with conference membership such as bowl tie-ins or revenue sharing.
There’s no guarantees, of course, that life would be any better in, say, the MAC, and we know all too well that the grass wasn’t greener in the AAC. That said, the jury’s still out on whether the program can improve, or even survive, without a conference to call home.