The sudden dismissal of Bob Diaco as UConn football’s head coach presents a critical junction for UConn. The football program has potential, but after two failed coaches, a third bad run would put the school in a very bad place. A loud minority already questions the viability of investing in an FBS team. Those calls will only get louder if this trajectory continues.
Athletic Director David Benedict, who addressed the decision on WTIC Monday afternoon, needs to strike gold with this hire otherwise the possibility of athletic department solvency via “power five” invite continues to fight an uphill battle. Obviously he believes someone better is out there otherwise he would not have made this decision.
So who might that person be? Let’s take a hyper-speculative look at some possible options:
The Never Say Never But Probably Never Category
Randy Edsall and Les Miles
Both names have been floated since the news broke. Both are unrealistic options. Miles is looking for a better job and would likely prefer hanging out in a cushy studio gig until something more his speed opens up.
Edsall would not be a horrible choice in a vacuum but it just doesn’t seem very likely he’d want to make a return to Storrs. Even if he would, there might not be enough mutual interest from UConn’s current administration.
Home Run Swings
Joe Moorhead, Penn State Offensive Coordinator
Moorhead checks off all the necessary boxes. He oversaw the last successful Husky offense as Randy Edsall’s offensive coordinator before becoming head coach at Fordham. There he posted a 38-13 record over four years before leaving to be the offensive coordinator at Penn State this past season. There have been conflicting reports over his interest in the job, with ESPN’s Steve Levy reporting that Moorhead to UConn “might already be done” while Yahoo’s Pat Forde is reporting that Moorhead is not a candidate.
In a perfect world, he and Benedict already have the paperwork drawn up and Joe is just playing coy until Penn State is done with the Rose Bowl. Coincidentally, the day of the Rose Bowl (January 2) is the same day Bob Diaco’s termination takes effect.
On the flip side, 2016 has proven to be the Year of the Swift Kick to the Groin so I guess Paul Pasqualoni being re-hired is more likely.
Todd Orlando, Texas Defensive Coordinator
Like Moorhead, Todd Orlando’s name has been mentioned for this vacancy due to his ties to UConn. Orlando coached with the Huskies for 11 seasons from 1999-2010, including six seasons as defensive coordinator. He was Houston’s defensive coordinator for the past two seasons before following Tom Herman to Texas for the same position.
While most believe UConn will look for an offensive-minded coach, Orlando has experience at UConn and in the conference. He’s a relatively high-profile candidate who may be interested in getting his first shot as a college head coach here.
Rhett Lashlee, Auburn Offensive Coordinator
Lashlee just finished his fourth year at Auburn and is in the mix for his connections to David Benedict, who was second in command of Auburn’s athletic department before he was hired by UConn.
Lashlee has extensive experience with quarterbacks and was a first-year offensive coordinator for Auburn’s impressive turnaround in 2013, when the Tigers won the SEC and made the BCS National Championship game after going 3-9 in 2012. He coached quarterback Nick Marshall, a junior college transfer who had begun practice in August, to over 3,000 total yards and 26 total touchdowns. He could be a good fit to take over given the quarterbacks on the roster.
Don Brown, Michigan Defensive Coordinator
Brown, another former UConn assistant, is recruiting very well in the northeast for Michigan. Though a certain national football writer is spreading fake news about whether or not this job would bring a raise for Brown, it most certainly would and it would also give Brown another shot at being a head coach. He was last running a program as head coach of UMass, from 2004-2008.
Al Golden, Detroit Lions Tight Ends Coach
Golden is currently an NFL assistant, but his entire career before that has been in college, most recently as Miami’s head coach. Before Miami, he excelled at Temple, going 17-8 in his final two seasons after taking over a destitute program that had just been kicked out of the Big East.
Greg Schiano, Ohio State Defensive Coordinator
Architect of the Rutgers
dynasty couple of years where they were pretty good, Schiano would be a good choice for the “program builder” David Benedict has said he is looking for. Schiano is well-traveled, has ties across the recruiting footprint, and knows what it takes for a northeast program to succeed. UConn could do a lot worse.
Jerry Kill, Rutgers Offensive Coordinator
Given recent reports that Kill was at UConn, and his ties to Benedict and football administrator Beth Goetz, the former Minnesota head coach could be a viable replacement and could even leave his recently-signed position at Rutgers.
Rob Ambrose, Towson Head Coach
Another former UConn staffer and an offensive-minded coach, Ambrose has been successful at FCS Towson, where he had the pleasure of defeating UConn at the Rent. His team has been struggling a bit lately, but he also has two titles in a tough conference and a trip to the FCS Championship Game on his resume. He’s been at Towson since 2009, and could be looking for an opportunity to move up.
Though UConn’s two recent coaching hires were defensive-minded coaches who failed, I don’t think Benedict will limit himself to overcorrecting with an offensive-minded coach. As long as the defensive guy has a modern offensive strategy in mind and a short list of qualified OC candidates it should be fine.
NBC and Forde are also reporting that we could be hearing something relatively soon regarding the replacement. This would be ideal for a number of reasons, as hopefully Benedict was pretty close to locking something down at the time he made this decision. Whoever takes over will need to fill out the staff rather quickly and hit the ground running to salvage what they can in the 2017 recruiting class.
We’ll be updating this page with new names as they emerge.