Pasqualoni or not, the UConn football program has a tough road ahead

Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

It doesn't matter who the coach is, UConn has a long ways to go.

I'm a big picture guy. The loss to Temple hurt. It hurt very much. It did not hurt like the losses to West Virginia and Rutgers felt in 2010, but rather like the downward spiral Red Sox fans faced this year, and that's because things might be bleak for a while. The highlight of my weekend was going to Middletown's Palmer Field Friday night to see BC-recruit Tim Boyle's Xavier High School team get pounded by UConn-bound Matt Walsh's Daniel Hand team, which might be the closest I'll ever get to seeing a UConn-BC football tilt. But enough of my high school alma mater, my college one -- UConn -- will this ever get better? My answer - no matter what change is made, it's not getting better any time soon.

Last year UConn won five games. The Western Michigan loss was a painful because they played down to an opponent and suffered. The other losses weren't fun, but none were as glaring for a team with (arguably) the weakest starting QB of any BCS-school. This year's team already has two losses like last year's WMU disaster (Western Michigan and Temple) and a win over Buffalo that easily could have gone the other way. But what's more painful is that the team has progressively gotten worse.

The positives of the NC State loss, like allowing only one big play (and that came without Blidi Wreh-Wilson on the field), were gone by the Maryland win (which is the defacto high point of the season and probably of the Pasqualoni-era.) Defense isn't alone either, as what once seemed like positives in special teams -- Nick Williams kick returns and Chad Christen's promising start -- are gone now too.

I think we can say now the Pasqualoni hiring was a mistake. The easy comparison is Rutgers, who had Greg Schiano leave and followed it up with his assistant Kyle Flood succeeding despite inheriting an equally bad situation at quarterback and a defense similar to UConn's. They are undefeated and ranked now. We are lucky to avoid the ESPN Bottom 10 most weeks. Recruiting-wise, UConn was never great with Randy Edsall, but so far Casey Cochrane appears to be the only bonafid "big name" of the Pasqualoni era.

It's worth examining letting Paul Pasqualoni go at the end of the season. Of course, you are saying "duh!", but realistically, it's not as easy as it sounds. If he coaches, Pasqualoni is due $1.7 million in 2013, $1.8 million in 2014 and $1.9 million in 2015. His buyout after this year is $1.75 million, but his replacement would need to be paid too, and UConn, not the state, is footing this bill (sounds like the same situation as our friends in Maryland are having with their coach - who is tied for first in ... oh I can't say it with cracking up... first place in the ACC... my goodness the ACC blows).

The cash situation could narrow UConn's replacement options, and it's not clear that a program struggling to fill half of a a stadium for a homecoming game is flush. Plus they'll probably have to cough up another half a million to get a consultant to hire this guy. I don't have a list of names in front of me -- that's the consultant's job -- I'm just hoping it's a young guy and they are patient with him.

And UConn would need to be patient, because next year is looking rough. The Huskies might have a new coach, a new system and a lost year of recruiting, plus next year's schedule is likely going to be more challenging (Michigan, an improved Maryland, and a potentially stiffer conference schedule once you swap out Pitt and Syracuse).

Then there's next year's roster. Take a look at the depth chart. Yawin Smallwood is back. That's a huge plus. Ty-Meer Brown and Taylor Mack have contributed. Graham Stewart and Jesse Joseph will be recovered from injury (you can only hope). After that, it's thin. Frightfully thin. And the defense is the only thing that keeps UConn from being embarrassed (more?) on any given weekend. Smallwood will be the only player with significant experience back in the linebacker corps. Both starting cornerbacks are gone. Adam Masters is gone from the line on offense. The two tight ends, Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt, are both seniors. So is Nick Williams. Thankfully Cole Wagner has a year left even though it seems like he's been here forever. Maybe that's because they punt so much. He's done a nice job this year.

Those are the losses not considering the extra turnover that can come with a coaching change. And a coaching change is only going to hurt the recruiting class as well (currently they are at 14 players with 7 coming in with some sort of national rating, putting them on par with teams like BC, BYU, Purdue and Cincinnati, certainly respectable, but no big names).

Whoever comes in it's not going to have an easy job. And if the Wolverines and the Edsall leave the stadium early next year with wins, the Huskies might have to draw fans with only a win or two to count on.

So you, the fan, may get your wish. No Pasqualoni on the sideline next season. But by getting your wish, you are signing up for some major growing pains next year. Probably the year after that too. And you're going to have to be patient too. Four and five star guys don't show up overnight. They don't go to a school that they visit where the stands are half full and they are losing by two touchdowns.

If UConn hires a new coach they better hope that whoever comes in is willing to take the stairs. He's got quite a few flights to climb.

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