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After years of preaching 'The Right Way,' Edsall, UConn go separate ways

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Now, it's official.

The press release had been out and the announcement had been made, but Randy Edsall finally closed the door on his 12-season tenure at UConn -- the place where he made his name, the place where he made UConn's name matter in college football -- by draping himself in Terrapin red and black today at his introductory press conference at the University of Maryland.

Clearly, Edsall was ready to start the next chapter of his career.

Even if it meant distancing himself from the previous one as much as possible.

In classic Edsall fashion, the former UConn head coach didn't say much, choosing to fill his words with coach speak and vague responses that sounded like a Matthew Fox monologue from "Lost."  (He even went as far as to label his new position at Maryland his "dream job.")

He said all the right things. Except the ones UConn fans care about.

Almost intentionally, Edsall fielded question after question without ever mentioning the program he built back in Storrs with his bare hands. He at one point midway through the presser mentioned that his new staff will include some of his former Husky coaches, but it wasn't until The Courant's Zac Boyer asked if Edsall had anything to say to his former players that Edsall was forced to confront his past.

And even then, he did so with deep reluctance, "playfully" (using the same tone and demeanor in which someone asks for your lunch money) telling Boyer to give up the mic, because today was about Maryland. (And also sending virtually every local writer into a tizzy -- even those that admittedly didn't even see it.)

Backed into a corner, Edsall began spouting off kind words for the players, the coaches, the family that he left behind, even getting a bit verklempt when saying he wished he had been able to tell his team the news in person instead of over the phone on a conference call just before the news was announced.

From the look in his eye, you could tell Edsall was hurting. You could tell that, despite accepting his "dream job," it wasn't easy for him to strip away the colors and life he'd held onto for 12 years and leave it all behind.

Divorce, it's said, is never easy on either side. And like in any last fight, Edsall will wind up with regrets about the way things ended.

For years, Edsall has preached doing things The Right Way. A man of supposed deep character, one who cares about the student as much as the athlete, Edsall built UConn's foundation on The Right Way.

When he kicked out an up-and-coming quarterback for alleged substance abuse, he did it because it was The Right Way. When he carried a program from the mulch to the Fiesta Bowl, he did it The Right Way, so they say. And when he rallied a program around him after the tragic murder of one of its star players, he did it The Right Way.

Yet, in his last act as the UConn Huskies head football coach, The Right Way was no longer Edsall's way.

Instead of being forthright about his departure to the players he'd molded on his preachings, Edsall scurried off into the night, flying back to the East Coast after the Fiesta Bowl to meet with the Maryland representatives. As they landed back in Connecticut, the players heard the news through the media and friends, not Edsall.

And when the decision to leave the school where spent 12 freakin' years of his life was official, Edsall chose to make his break over the phone to "about 40 players" (his words) instead of flying back and saying goodbye one last time. But don't worry; he'll likely call some of them back to talk. Eventually.

"I tried to do the best I could given the situation," Edsall said. "I would have liked to see those young men in person to tell them. I wasn't able to do that, so I thought I would try to do the next best thing."

I don't fault Edsall for taking his new position, nor do I think he owes us, the fans, any explanation for his decision. While fleeing to an also-ran in a marginally better conference may seem perplexing to some, it's Edsall's decision to make. After what he's done at UConn, he deserves to go wherever he wants.

(And now, it's clear that what he wants is not UConn. After so many years of watching him take the field, we're perhaps all at fault for romanticizing Edsall's devotion to UConn; over the past few years, when his stock was finally high enough to field legitimate D-1 offers, Edsall reportedly flirted with them all -- from Georgia Tech to Notre Dame to Miami, and so on. When we began bracing for Edsall's departure after the regular season, someone (maybe Meacham?) correctly pointed out that we have no idea if Edsall even wanted to leave. Maybe he wanted to be a lifer at UConn? But as Pat Forde succinctly notes today on Twitter: "Dude's been trying [to flee] for years.")

But after 12 years of preaching character and everything else that we're force-fed daily from virtually every coach in the U.S. about the "student athlete," Edsall sent one final, clear statement on the true value system of big-time athletics:

The Right Way is only the right way until you need to go your separate ways.

To be fair, if I were Edsall, I probably would've left, too. Even if this isn't his "dream job" -- which, let's be honest, it probably isn't -- it's a step-up, even if we don't want to believe it. Maryland isn't much better than UConn but it's still better. Better resources, better fans, better talent pool, better competition. If Edsall's trying to work his way to becoming an elite-level head coach, winning big in the ACC, not the Big East, is the way to better prove himself to the Penn States of the world.

"I want to win championships," Edsall said at his press conference, only moments later clarifying that it's ACC championships.

We're stuck with UConn (and proud of it). Edsall doesn't have to be.

Just because it's our dream to see UConn rise into a legitimate national contender doesn't mean it's Edsall's. Nor does he need to invest his time, his career, his life into doing so. If Edsall wants to work his way up the ladder, or even just finally coach without some of the handcuffs he's worn for so long, then let him.

He's earned it. Because over the past 12 years, he's given us everything the program has to offer today. All the success we've experienced, and all the warts that are still visible ... it's all been brought to us through Edsall's way. The Right Way.

But after years of preaching The Right Way, the way in which Edsall decided to go a different way from UConn was anything but that.

Now, it's time for us to do the same.

It's the "next best thing."