I'm glad Randy Edsall's gone.
I'd had mixed feelings about the departure of the only UConn football coach I'd only really ever known since he up and left some seven months ago.
The way in which he skipped town made it quite easy to distance yourself from Edsall, the man. But it's hard to forget what Edsall, the coach, accomplished at a school that was toiling away in the A-10 over a decade ago. Like in most breakups, after the initial sting wears off, you begin to appreciate what you had, and regardless of all the bumps along the way -- and there were many -- the same guy who once shoveled Memorial Field did just lead the program to a BCS bowl.
But today, I can sit here happy with how it all turned out.
Not because of some nicety the old ball coach threw at his old stomping grounds. Or some breakthrough moment by the new guy at this week's Big East Clambake.
All it took was a small dose of reality.
Half a year into his "dream job," Edsall has quickly put his imprint on his new program by doing things the Edsall way. That surely means instilling discipline or what have you and drawing up some creative ways to hand the ball off straight up the gut. But the only tangible evidence, as of now, has come through his "Maryland Makeover," as The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Barker called it.
In an attempt to associate Terps football with the state they play in, Edsall has begun emphasizing the "Maryland" wordmark around the facilities and on the team's new jerseys in place of the team nickname or their adorable tortoise mascot.
As part of this whole Randy renaissance, Edsall is even bringing back an old trick from his days in Storrs: removing the names off of players' jerseys.
Edsall said the uniform changes are more than cosmetic. When a supporter asked whether dropping players' names could hurt recruiting, the coach offered his philosophy. He said the changes were part of a broad plan to keep more top high school recruits in Maryland by instilling home-state pride.
"I'm just a firm believer that you play for what's on the front of the jersey. When we're long gone, Maryland is still going to be here, and that's what it's all about," said Edsall, who grew up in Glen Rock, Pa., near the Maryland border.
This is why UConn is better off without Edsall.
Not because of his uninspired offense. Or the lackluster recruiting. Or the awful quarterbacks. Or the uninspired offense. This non-story, this one little change about something as frivolous as a jersey design embodies everything wrong with the Edsall era.
Because while Edsall may think stripping the names off his players' backs creates some type of team unity, all it really is is some hollow attempt at it -- an old, worn-out trick used hundreds of times by coaches past masquerading as change.
Maybe the move really works. Maybe without the name on his back, Davin Meggett will fight that much harder for an extra yard. And maybe some special teams nobody will try that much harder for a block. Who knows?
But in 2011, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the only difference is now fans will have more trouble identifying players on the field. Which, despite being its goal, is really just a pain -- nothing else.
And while Edsall tries to instill pride for State U on the field, off it, he's done anything but.
Just days before Edsall expounded his aesthetic change, a coach from a longtime prep power in the Terps' backyard was already expressing his frustrations with the new regime. The apparent "rift" between the new Maryland staff and new DeMatha High School coach Elijah Brooks could be nothing more than a simple miscommunication, or perhaps and overreaction by a 27-year-old high school coach. But it's hard to give a college coach notorious for neglecting his recruiting base the benefit of the doubt.
In his short time in College Park, Edsall has stuck to the script he established at UConn: emphasizing the state name, spouting off coach speak from his pulpit. etc. And by doing so, it's more likely than not that he'll enjoy the same moderate success in the ACC.
Because that's all there is and ever will be with Edsall. Despite all the good he's done for UConn, ushering it from its D-IA infancy and through one of the bleakest times in university history, most, if not all of his time has been just one big blueprint to coaching success. Nothing ever feels fresh. It's just the same stout defense, the same ball-control offense, the same speeches about want-to and character. Just more of the same, always and forever.
I'm not naive enough to think that Paul Pasqualoni is any different. He is a college football head coach, after all. But perhaps the only refreshing thing about a coach whose career defines status quo is there isn't as much bullshit to sift through.
Maybe it's because Pasqualoni has gone through the wringer so many times before. Or maybe it's because he's recently spent time in the pros. Or, most likely, the new car smell hasn't worn off yet and we just haven't gotten bogged down by. But, as of right now, Pasqualoni feels different, even if it's only slightly. And for now at least, the program is better because of it.
I'm much happier living in blissful ignorance than indifference.