Just as we all thought, UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway was determined to hire as his next football head coach a man whose coaching resume peaked in 1998. Except it's not Mark Whipple (1998 Division I-AA champion at UMass), the guy who appeared to be a shoe-in for the job 24 hours ago.
Courtesy of the Boston Globe:
After looking at all the angles--pros and cons--University of Connecticut athletic director Jeff Hathaway chose experience as a Big East head coach and at the FBS level as the deciding factor in choosing to hire former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni over former University of Massachusetts coach Mark Whipple.
The press conference will be Friday afternoon.
In Pasqualoni, UConn is getting a man with ties to the state of Connecticut (he's a native of Cheshire), 14 seasons of Big East head coaching experience (13 of which ended with a winning record). He's also a coach who recruited some of Connecticut's top high school football talent (Dwight Freeney, Tebucky Jones) to come to the Cuse.
Under Paul P, Syracuse won 107 games, and went to back-to-back big-money bowls (Fiesta in '97, Orange in '98) behind Donovan McNabb. Of course, Pasqualoni's teams were kind of not good after that; from 2000 to 2004, only once (a 10-3 season in 2002) did the Orange finish with more than 6 wins.
Pasqualoni was forced out of the Syracuse job after the 2004 season, and has wandered about as an NFL assistant (most recently, as the interim defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys this past season) for the past six years.
Des Connor at the Courant speculates that Whipple's temperamental personality spooked Hathaway into going with the more rock-steady Pasqualoni at the last minute. Connor calls the former Syracuse coach "a little safer," which is just the type of gung-ho, confidence-inspiring pronouncement we've come to expect from Hathaway.
Nevertheless, my really, really, really, really early impression: I'm cautiously optimistic about this hire. The fact is the Orange under Pasqualoni were an annual Big East contender back when the conference was home to more than 0.5 ranked teams in a given year.
So there you have it, folks. At the very least, the game against Syracuse should be fairly interesting next year. Let us know whether the UConn program as we know it will be destroyed by this hire in the comments section.