I'll admit up top that this post is a very long-winded way of asking a very simple questions, but bear with me.
I'm not a huge fan of The Hartford Courant's Jeff Jacobs. Sometimes he can be on target, but a lot of the time he reads as if he's simply being the contrarian for the sake of it. Plus, he always relished his "I take on Calhoun" role in the media, to the point where it became apparent he could only offer begrudging compliments to the old ball coach.
But, like I said, sometimes he's right on the mark, and he was this week.
Last week, after the "win" over Buffalo, he mentioned the tangible lack of excitement around the UConn football program. He pointed to the fact that the crowd for the game probably didn't rise much past the 29,000 mark, even though Rentschler Field holds 40,000. The fans, he concluded, just aren't that interested in this team.
That got me thinking: what would make me excited about UConn football? Now, I'm a fan. I've been a fan of all things UConn before I was even old enough to think about college, and spending the last few years of my educational career there only solidified my loyalty. I watch because it's the Huskies and I want the Huskies to win. But, truth be told, I'm not excited about the program right now.
Some of it has to do with college football in general. There isn't a tremendous amount of room to maneuver in a sport that is still run as an old-boys club. If you've got the right name and the right "brand" you get a lot of preferential treatment. Notre Dame hasn't been relevant since the U.S. invaded Iraq the first time, but they are still treated like royalty and when they finally do show some signs of life (this season) they are automatically elevated to "elite" status. Anyone who watched the snore fest against Michigan came away with one impression: both teams are just ehhhh.
I'm not picking on Notre Dame (although, admittedly, it's fun) but they're a perfect example of how hard it is to break into the rarified air that allows you to play truly meaningful college football games. Now, college basketball has its own hierarchy, but the NCAA Tournament serves as the great equalizer. Whether you're Kentucky or VCU, you get a six-game, single elimination tournament to prove your chops. History and brand don't mean squat when you hit the
The structure of college football is an issue, but if we're being honest my relative apathy towards UConn football right now stems from two simple facts: they aren't very good this year, and I don't have a tremendous amount of hope for them getting good in the foreseeable future.
So, what would get me excited for UConn football? A win against Rutgers? That would make me happy cause I don't like Rutgers and, as a rule, the people who go there. Beating that school is always satisfying. Yet, because I am skeptical of how good Rutgers actually is, I don't know if a win would get me "excited."
There are only two things would actually get me excited for UConn football: a long, impressive winning streak or a change in the coaching staff at the end of the year that brought in a name guy or a young talent with huge program-building potential.
If UConn followed up a win against Rutgers with wins against Louisville and maybe even Cincinnati, while beating the teams we would consider beatable along the way, then I would be excited, both for this year and the future. I know that's a tall, maybe impossible order, but we are talking about getting excited - not intrigued, not interested, not curious about the future. Short of that, it will take a commitment from the program to try and improve dramatically at the end of the year. That, to me, means a coaching change.
This is nothing personal against Pasqualoni. He is a good guy and an okay coach. Yet, if you look at his last six or seven years at Syracuse, you'll see it's virtually no different than what we have seen in the last year and a half at UConn. This is who the man is. It doesn't make him bad. It just makes him...ehhh.
To get better than ehhh on the field, you need a coach with the potential to take the program to the next level. If they hired someone with that potential, it would get me excited.
So I suspect I will be watching the the rest of the season and next year's in a fog. I want them to win, care about them winning, but have a very pessimistic outlook for the future.
As a fan, I hope I'm wrong. I want to be wrong about Pasqualoni. I want to be wrong about this year. I want to be eating crow come the end of November as I read articles about Pasqualoni's ability to take UConn into a new era of prosperity. I just don't think I am wrong and that makes it hard to get excited.
What about you? What does UConn need to show to get you excited? Or maybe you're already excited and I'm just being a spoiled fan with overly enthusiastic expectations for the future?