We've teamed up with Nestea this week to talk about who and what is bold in the world of UConn sports. This is the first of two sponsored posts you'll see this week.
Randy Edsall had a boyhood dream of coaching a mid-level east coast college football program at a basketball school in a basketball conference, unfortunately UConn just wasn't middling enough for him so he jumped ship for Maryland. For the first time in its relevant history UConn was without a football coach, which meant that Jeff Hathaway had to run the only big-time coaching search in school history.
It was an exciting time, UConn had just made it's first BCS bowl and the job was as appealing as it could ever be reasonably expected to be. After 12 years of an efficient but boring run-based attack it seemed possible that UConn might take a gamble on a young offensive-minded coach that could bring some real energy to Rentschler Field. At least, that's what a lot of fans (myself included) hoped for. Instead, Hathaway searched long and hardand he came up with.... Paul Pasqualoni.
Now, to be fair, Pasqualoni is a Connecticut guy (if that should matter for football is up for debate, but whatever), he had a successful run at Syracuse where he picked up four Big East championships and he was a known commodity. On the other hand, he's 61 years old, runs a style very similar to Edsall's and his selection feels much more like a stop-gap measure than one made with an eye toward the future. He was the low-risk choice.
So what makes hiring him a bold move? The fact that if it doesn't work out Jeff Hathaway may not be around to pick the next football coach.
Now, I'm no big fan of Hathaway, but I think in the wake of the Burton fiasco it's not a huge stretch to say that this needs to go right for Hathaway, especially with Jim Calhoun's impending retirement. And I may be crazy for thinking this, but I think a riskier choice would have given him more leeway. If he brought in someone young and it didn't work out, it'd be frustrating, but he would have given the fans what they wanted and given UConn football a shot at a new identity. Instead he appears to have given us more of the same Edsall-style system that was so frustrating. Is there anyone out there more excited for this fall because Pasqualoni is coaching? I didn't think so.
For the record, I'm not the only one doubting Hathaway. New UConn president Susan Herbst has officially been on the job for all of two weeks and she's already made a move to show she's going to keep him on a short leash. First, she hired Zachary Goines to be the athletic program's new fundraising director, a position that had been left open for an unbelievable (and worrisome) five years. Second, and more importantly, Goines is not reporting to Hathaway, but to Herbst and the UConn Foundation. You can't run an athletic program without fundraising and if your top fundraiser isn't reporting to you, that says a lot about how much you're trusted to run an athletic program.
The point is that Hathaway took a real risk by going the conservative route with Pasqualoni. It was not a move that changed expectations, but if it doesn't work out it might be a move that leads to a changed athletic director.