Frustrated UConn fans, this is for you.
The Syracuse game is a glass-half kind of thing. If you're feeling negative you can look at it and say that kind of loss is not only embarrassing but also program-debilitating. Seeing UConn play absolutely non-competitive football against a sub-par Cuse team (sorry, SU fans, but you know it's true) sets the program back even further than before.
However, the glass-half-full side looks at things and says that after a 40-10 loss up in the land of Orange there is almost no chance Paul Pasqualoni and his staff return for another disappointing year. And by now, only a small minority of people believe that would be anything other than a positive.
So instead of writing a column blasting this coach, his staff, and their inability to squeeze even a solid performance out of a squad that is certainly not as bad as their recent play has indicated, I think it is best to move on. Really, what could be said that hasn't been said a thousand times by now? If you're a supporter of Pasqualoni, the only imaginable defense I can think of is that you simply don't believe two years, no matter how miserable, is enough of a chance for any college coach. Like I've said in a past post, I would normally agree. In this case, however, hanging on to Coach PP and his staff would just be delaying the inevitable and threatening to completely dismantle any gains the program has made in the last decade.
So, let's take a leap of faith and assume that UConn AD Warde Manuel is looking at the current state of his football program and thinking "not on my watch." After all, this is really the place Manuel can put his stamp on the athletic department as a whole. The UConn women's basketball team is a well-oiled machine that shows no signs of slowing down. If (as we all hope) Kevin Ollie is able to keep the men's program afloat this year and, starting next year, return it to prominence, Manuel will receive only a little bit of credit for that accomplishment, with most of it being heaped on Ollie and Jim Calhoun for handpicking the right guy. The other sports (baseball, hockey, etc) are already pretty good and don't really offer the type of recognition the major sports (basketball and football) do anyway.
So the gridiron is where Manuel can make the most difference. If, under his watch, they become a team of national relevancy, he gets the credit and it's hard to imagine he could possibly believe that is happening with this group at the helm.
Now, if we assume Manuel is going to make a change at the end of the year, the question then becomes, who should replace Pasqualoni?
I'm not a college football insider so I can't give you names, or at least names of people who would actually consider the job. In another world it'd be nice to say Steve Addazio. He just walked into Renstchler and beat the Huskies with a Temple team everyone expected to be a doormat this year. He has that once-woeful program on the rise. And he's a Connecticut guy, actually having cut his teeth under one Paul Pasqualoni.
But, would he even want the job? Sadly, who's to say that UConn is a better spot than Temple right now? Even if we assume it is (I personally believe it is) Addazio is only in his second year. Does he feel comfortable leaving so quickly?
If it's not Addazio, then who?
Like I said, I don't have the names. That's why athletic department administrators make a lot of money. They know the names of top candidates, guys gaining experience as OC and DC at other programs. Their job is to make the right call. However, I do know what I would like to see in a new coach.
First, while trying to sound delicate about the situation, I want someone relatively young. Not babe-in-the-woods young, but someone with a lot of years left in the tank. Even if Pasqualoni were setting the world on fire right now, how much longer could he legitimately be expected to lead a football program? The egg timer was always set on high for his tenure at UConn.
They need someone who is going to come in and build. They need a program builder right now because, as Jeff King aptly pointed out, the road to relevancy, which seemed so short after the BCS Bowl appearance, is back to being a virtual Iron Man competition.
Second, it goes without saying they need a good recruiter. UConn is not destination territory for top-flight talent. They don't have the name, the history, or the geography in their favor. But great coaches overcome that. They either use their skills of persuasion to land a few guys that shouldn't be considering a school like UConn or, more likely, nab some under-the-radar talent and coach them up. It's sort of like payroll for baseball teams. You have what guys are getting paid, and what guys are actually worth on the field. The two don't always add up. Same thing with recruiting. You have the "stars" they have received from places like Scout and then you have what they can actually do come game time.
Finally, they need a cheerleader. They need someone who is going to go out there and fire up a fan base that currently is either angry or apathetic. They need to be someone that does more than hold a weekly press conference, go to a few luncheons, and then hunker down in the film room to prepare for next week. They need someone who will both inspire the players and the UConn "family" to believe that something really special is possible.
As has been pointed out many times now, UConn fans have always treated football as a second-class citizen. I don't know that that will ever change as long as the basketball program/s stay elite (here's to hoping that's the case). But a good coach and a great salesman could at least evoke some excitement from us. He could convince us that Saturday football at UConn is more than a place holder for the start of the Big East basketball season. He could get the program to the point where they are playing name teams, and beating a few along the way.
Randy Edsall was moving in that direction, and as his stint has shown in Maryland, Edsall left a lot to be desired as both a game day coach and a recruiter. If Edsall could bring the program to respectability, why can't someone even more dynamic bring them to relevancy?
It begins, though, with the right hire. It begins with someone having a vision of what UConn football can be, and then selling that vision to recruits and the fans as a whole.