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Takin' Edsall Back?

Didn't we almost have it all?


It's sad but appropriate to say that, though it is only week two of the college football season, I'm ecstatic there was no UConn football game Saturday.

I have no doubt the players hate the fact that they have to sit and stew on the loss to Towson for another week, and would be much happier playing to relieve a little tension but, for me, as a fan, I honestly don't want to watch the team play right now.

That train wreck against Towson was....disheartening, to say the least (a swift kick to gonads with a cement boot is probably a more apt description).

So, I'll take this week-two break and get ready for the Edsall Bowl 2.0 next Saturday.

And that leads me to my question of the week—actually, it's two questions.

I was thinking about this as I was writing my last post ruminating about the fall of UConn's football program and how, in two years and one game, it seems so much promise has turned into hard, cold, bitter disappointment and, worse, apathy.

The promise was built, whether we like it or not, by the man who will be walking into Hartford next week, wearing his Maryland garb proudly.

Randy Edsall navigated UConn through its FBS baby steps, and had them taking full, long strides by the end of his run. While those of us who followed UConn closely knew that Edsall wasn't the perfect college coach he was made out to be by many in the national media—predictable offense, sub-par recruiting—there was no down playing his success. UConn was a better program because he was their coach, no question about it, and under Edsall's direction UConn became a bit player in the yearly production of CFB.

We have a tendency to forget or ignore that now, considering the way Edsall left. In fairness, what he did has been done hundreds of times by coaches at all levels. They talk about loving programs, schools, and kids, and then hop a train, plane, or into their car headed for the next gig once it's offered. No one is immune. Even the "big boy" programs have seen top quality coaches skip out after midnight for a chance to try their luck in the NFL.

But when it happens to your school, your program, it stings, and the stinger left from Edsall's departure continues to fester under UConn fans' skins.

So, considering all that emotion, here are the two questions I've asked myself lately: Do you wish Edsall had never left the school and, if he's available at the end of this year, would you consider bringing him back?

Let's start with the first question.

I think there is a case to be made that Edsall had taken the program as far as he could. He had peaked as a coach and they had peaked as a program under him. It seemed like UConn was destined to be a team that won 8 games a year. There would be a 6-6 mixed in with a few 10-3 seasons but, for the most part, they would be an 8 win team.

It's not unreasonable to say that being an 8-win-a year program, considering it's UConn, is all that can be expected of any coach. And if you happened to win 10 games once in a while and go up against a big-name school in a not-too-shabby bowl, so much the better. Yet, if UConn is serious about being a real "national player" in football, which they claim to be, then the argument could have been made that it was time for Edsall to depart. A young, creative, hungry coach might have taken what Edsall built and put on some nice, shiny additions.

There was no guarantee, but it might have been worth the risk.

However, considering how the last two years have gone, I'd have to say I, personally, wish Edsall had stayed.

I know he ducked out after the BCS game knowing that the team was probably going to take a step back but, had he stayed, I can't believe it would have been allowed to fall to where it has. Even if he did the same as Coach Paul Pasqualoni that first year after the Fiesta Bowl trip, I've got to imagine year two would have seen an improvement and, by year three, the team wouldn't be losing to Towson on opening night.

Plus, Edsall remaining in his position might have made a difference when it came to conference realignment. I've got to imagine some ACC presidents and athletic directors would have been much more bullish on UConn's future as a football program if the builder of that program was still in place. UConn's most successful football coach had established a positive reputation, so much so that his name popped up for job opportunities in places like Notre Dame, so even if Edsall's team had floundered a bit, I've got to believe some of those football-minded schools that turned away from UConn  and toward Louisville might have seen less reason to do so if he had remained.

It's possible that Edsall's star might have started to fade had he stuck around but, considering how it's all played out, it's hard to imagine the program being in worse shape if he were here.

The question of whether I'd want him back, now, after all this, is more complicated.

My initial response is "no." Even if he did and said all the right things, I don't know that I'd be able to break away from the emotions that came along with watching him stick his nose up at UConn and treat it like some small, minor stepping stone on the road to his greater glory. Plus, as I said before, Edsall's flaws are still there, and perhaps more pronounced. Obviously, he hasn't gotten significantly better as evidenced by the fact that Maryland is looking to run him out of town on the first plane to Siberia. Honestly, I think it's probably best to just flip the page and start over, fresh. Look for a young assistant somewhere with bright ideas and a bright future and cross our fingers.

Yet, there are obvious advantages to bringing Edsall back.

First, he knows the program. He helped build it.

He knows how to coach up lesser talent.

When he was at UConn, we the fans railed against Edsall's inability to recruit even a few top-end talents, but I'd much rather have a guy who can coach players into top-tier talents than one who recruits them and then stunts any growth (right now, we have the double whammy of a coach who can't really recruit and can't really coach the players up).

It's also easy to forget that Edsall is still only 55. If he were to return to Connecticut and have success again, he might end up being another Bill Snyder, who commits to the program for the remainder of his career. Obviously, never underestimate someone's ability to do the wrong thing twice, but at least if Edsall had another chance to go to a major program in the future, it would mean he'd have brought UConn back to respectability.

In the end, I'd vote "no" on Edsall coming back. There would be a lot of hard feelings, his return would garner a lot of mixed emotions from fans who wouldn't be as forgiving of his faults or his team's stumbles as they had been in the past, and his "name brand" will have already taken a major hit after the Maryland catastrophe. I want something fresh and new for this program—someone who can take UConn to new heights, even though previously attained heights would be more than welcome right now.

But, if UConn wants to explore a second run with Edsall, it appears likely they'll have the chance, because neither Pasqualoni or Edsall appear primed to continue on in their respective jobs past this year.