Following USC's 62-41 loss at Arizona State yesterday evening, USC athletic director Pat Haden decided he'd finally had enough and fired head coach Lane Kiffin, announcing his decision before they team had even arrived back at campus.
If UConn athletic director Warde Manuel has any gumption whatsoever, he will do the same and fire head coach Paul Pasqualoni. Today.
After yesterday's dismal performance at Buffalo, there is no longer any justification for keeping Pasqualoni employed as head coach. The team is now 0-4, 10-18 overall under his leadership, and has looked completely hapless in three of the team's four games this season.
Worse yet, UConn managed to follow up its encouraging performance against Michigan last week by reverting back to the team we saw against Towson and Maryland. In doing so, they got blown out by a Buffalo team that needed five overtimes to beat Stony Brook, an FCS program mind you, and managed to murder any positive vibes gained from the Michigan game.
Even beyond the results on the scoreboard, obvious problems that have plagued UConn throughout his tenure are not getting fixed, and in some cases have gotten worse. UConn's running game was once among the best in the country year in and year out, but now the team is last in the country with only 45.8 yards rushing per game. Yesterday they somehow only managed 27 yards rushing, and at one point the team had something like -0.8 yards rushing per attempt on 14 attempts. That is astounding.
The team has also allowed 20 sacks on the season, the third most in the country behind only Idaho and Hawaii. They have lost nine turnovers in four games. They currently rank No. 108 in the country with 18 points per game, compared to last year when the team was No. 121 (fourth to last in the country) with 17.8 points per game.
Then there's yesterday, when the Huskies turned the ball over five times, allowing 24 points off turnovers, and at one point trailed 14-3 in the first quarter despite having only allowed one yard of total offense. Considering Buffalo's field and ESPN3's choppy video feed, it seriously felt like we were watching a high school game, and UConn was the overmatched junior varsity squad.
Most fans have already been clamoring for Coach P's removal since the end of last season, and hell, some were already prepared to pull the plug as quickly as a month into his first season. But until now there have always been reasonable counterpoints that Manuel could theoretically make to justify his keeping Coach P.
During his first season, Pasqualoni was coaching all of Edsall's players and had a walk-on at quarterback. Then last year, you could make the case that since he was still relying mostly on Edsall holdovers, he hadn't had enough time to make his mark on the program.
Now? I think it's clear that Pasqualoni's mark has been made. This is a bad football team that can't block, can't run the ball, can't protect the quarterback and can't stop turning over the ball, and that's what it has been for the better part of two years now. With a bye week coming up, the time to make a change is now, and if Manuel needs any reassurance, there are plenty of examples he can look to where a change of leadership has helped turn around even the bleakest of situations.
Take Louisville for example. When Louisville lost Bobby Petrino to the Atlanta Falcons, they hired Steve Kragthorpe, and in three years as head coach he essentially ran the program into the ground. Once Louisville fired him, they brought in Charlie Strong, and the turnaround has been so dramatic that Louisville is now considered one of the premier programs in the country.
How about Kentucky basketball? After Big Blue Nation had grown tired of Tubby Smith, the school brought in Billy Gillespie to lead the program. He was such a disaster that Kentucky fired him after only two years, and by bringing in John Calipari, the school found itself back in championship contention just about overnight.
Hell, what about the Red Sox? Last year the Sox were a three-ring circus, and Bobby Valentine was the clown masquerading as the manager. The Sox canned Valentine after one year, and now under the leadership of John Farrell – and with many of the same players – the team has gone from a 69-93 laughing stock to a 97-64 playoff team with the best record in baseball.
Will firing Pasqualoni help turn this season around? Probably not. But at this point the school needs to send a clear message to fans, recruits, the players and the national media that UConn isn't willing to settle for football mediocrity.
So why wait until the end of the year and let the problem continue to fester? Fire Paul Pasqualoni now, that way we can at least look ahead to a brighter future and put this sad era of UConn football behind us.