clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Who Killed UConn Football?

New, 1 comment

It takes a village.

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at Connecticut
Probably not Dale.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Well folks, the returns are in and UConn football is dead. It is not alive anymore. You may have thought losing to UMass was the bottom. You will have to think again.

For the life of me I cannot understand why UConn can’t just be solid on both sides of the ball. But the Pasqualoni, Diaco, and second Edsall eras have conclusively proved it is simply impossible.

UConn football needs to move to the MAC or FCS or the NESCAC or whoever will take it. It’s no longer worth discussing how to save UConn football, let’s just assign some blame.

UConn Division

Paul Pasqualoni (Football coach, 2011-13)

This dude is a stone-cold hustler. If you didn’t hate him so much you’d have to respect it.

Paul Pasqualoni had been out of college football for seven years before getting the call from UConn to take over in the wake of Randy Edsall’s departure for Maryland. An uninspiring hire from the start, Pasqualoni accomplished very little in his time in Storrs, and yet somehow has managed to stay gainfully employed by multiple college and professional teams since leaving.

He inherited something pretty solid from Edsall, watched calmly as it grew out of style, reverted to an even older style, let guys who are now national names in Don Brown and Joe Moorhead leave his staff, and was part of the reason UConn was passed over multiple times by “Power Five” conferences in the latest round of conference realignment.

Rating: 8/10

Warde Manuel (Athletic Director, 2012-16)

Manuel was captain of the ship as conference realignment capsized the Big East and the last lifeboat left the harbor, but by the time he got there the major damage was done. Pasqualoni was head coach, Jim Calhoun was on shaky ground, already planning to install Kevin Ollie as his successor, and the fan experience had dampened to a point that didn’t make the AAC landing any softer.

Bob Diaco turned out to be a bad hire. It could have really helped out the cause if Diaco was a good head coach, because maybe people wouldn’t be questioning the viability of being in the FBS. Manuel also is partially to blame for Diaco’s extension, I guess? Nobody has really pinned down the true culprit for that one. If Manuel started it and Benedict finished it, does that mean it’s nobody’s fault?

The UConn Blog is proud to be the only outlet to have questioned this extension, along with the hire of Frank Verducci as the offensive coordinator, because my god was he unqualified.

Anyway, I digress.

Warde, things haven’t been the same without you bud, this wasn’t your fault. Congrats on getting the Michigan gig, that’s awesome.

Blame Rating: 3/10

Bob Diaco (Football coach, 2014-16)

If Edsall’s second stint has anything to say about it, history may look kindly on Diaco’s short, somewhat entertaining but definitely not good tenure at UConn. He made the program somewhat part of college football culture with a silly made up rivalry that people still talk about, and apparently it’s impossible to be good at football here so that’s not on him either. His career 11-26 record looks downright impressive given the perception of the degree of difficulty, blurring the relevance of his weak managerial abilities.

We also shouldn’t forget that he engineered the high point of the post-2011 era, he beat a ranked team and got UConn back to a bowl game!

Diaco isn’t why UConn is in the American, and he’s only the reason UConn is bad from like 2016-18. From 2019 and forward it’s on Edsall 2.0, who doesn’t seem to be living in the here and now anymore...

The UConn Blog does not stan for Bob Diaco, but he was just a bad hire. That, or something changed in the transition from Warde Manuel to David Benedict that ruined the trajectory. Remember how we felt good that one offseason?!

Either way, I don’t buy into the theory that Bob Diaco set the program back more than any other football program has ever been set back before—Edsall can only use that boogeyman for so long.

Blame Rating: 4/10

Susan Herbst

Like Warde Manuel, Herbst did the best with what she was given. She steered the school in the right direction overall, seemed to understand the value of athletics to the university, and acted appropriately. Hard to ask for much more.

Blame Rating: 0/10

David Benedict (Athletic Director, 2016-present)

Benedict is falling out of favor lately due to some recent athletic department decisions, but again, he’s just trying to make the best of a tough situation.

ADDB did complete the Diaco extension that ultimately forced the football program into hiring Edsall. Perhaps, if costs were a concern, an experienced but under-the-radar coach from FCS or DII could have succeeded. Buffalo hired Lance Leipold from Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, and he has the Bulls at 8-1 so far in his fourth season.

The Edsall hire is starting to fall under question. If it keeps going south, this score goes up but for now it’s pretty low.

Blame Rating: 2/10

Randy Edsall

When Randy Edsall was hired back, the hope was he would be good at making the best of what he’s got. He has not done that so far. When he left in 2011, it sent the program on a downward trajectory. That was not good.

Regarding Maryland, Edsall is free to do whatever he wants. If after 12 years he felt like moving on to the next challenge, and maybe he didn’t like his athletic director very much, and a slightly larger bag was coming his way, there is nothing wrong with taking that deal. The (shitty) way that he left has no bearing on the program itself beyond the fact that he left.

Moreover, everything was in place for UConn at the time he left for the program to keep succeeding, if they had hired a better coach.

Is the fact that hiring him back in 2017 was the best UConn could do his fault? Was he the best person to hire for this job to rebuild in this way? Maybe not, but that’s not on him.

This one’s complicated, it remains to be seen how this second stint pans out. Right now things are plummeting to new all-time lows, but Edsall will have time to prove himself. On to 2019 I guess.

Blame Rating: 1.5/10

Jeff Hathaway (Athletic Director, 2003-11)

Hathaway inherited a very good situation, including two Hall of Fame basketball coaches and the leader of a rising football program, and yet oversaw a decline in ticket sales, donations, and significant dilution of the fan experience. Hathaway also hired Paul Pasqualoni, which had the double whammy effect of sending the football program head over heels and also causing a top donor to ask for his many millions in donations back. He also had a great deal to do with Randy Edsall feeling like there were greener pastures elsewhere and had a bad relationship with Jim Calhoun.

When it comes to the reason UConn is in the bad place and not the good place, everyone else is fighting for second. Just read both of the linked articles above.

Blame Rating: I give you Billy Bob from Varsity Blues with the reveal

The Fans

Many in athletic leadership and some local media see the lack of fan support as a major issue hindering athletic department success, to which I say, heartily, GTFO.

The fact that anyone still goes to UConn football games is a testament to fan fervor and undeserved dedication that is unmatched except by fans of Cleveland or Buffalo sports. The same can be said for those who stuck with the men’s hoops team and went to games over the past two seasons.

In addition to crowding Madison Square Garden any chance they had, the fanbase has filled up bars in Boston and moved tens of thousands of tickets for an outsourced home football game at Fenway Park, damnit! It is extremely disingenuous to suggest that fan support is an issue keeping Husky athletics down.

Blame Rating: Negative-7

Non-UConn Division

Boise State

They killed UConn in Week 2 of this season, as SB Nation’s Spencer Hall so thoroughly documented, but the Broncos are a cool non-conference team to have on the schedule regularly. If UConn was ever good it could mean some good games and impressive wins but that didn’t happen. Anyway, Boise is cool (even though their actions have a decent-sized part in the creation of the AAC), the people seem really nice. Good for them for what they’ve got with that football program.

Blame Rating: 1/10 for that demoralizing beating

John Swofford (ACC Commissioner, 1997-present)

Honestly, I hate that I even have to know who this dude is. In case you are so lucky to be unaware, he’s the guy who helped grow the heck out of the Atlantic Coast Conference, welcoming seven schools into the country club, all from the Big East.

Sadly, UConn was not one of those schools. Swofford’s raid of the Big East led to its ultimate demise, sale of the family name, and rebirth as the American Athletic Conference we know and definitely don’t love. UConn was the only original Big East member left without an upgrade to make.

Swofford will have to live with the stains of Louisville, which are rancid, as he stands by his decision while that athletic department falls further into disgrace. But it will all be worth it because boy did those Cardinals sports teams draw eyeballs and help make Swofford a multi-millionaire.

Anyway, outside the halls of UConn, this guy is mostly responsible, with an assist from the ESPN executives who helped steer him in this direction.

Blame Rating: 5 Fat Stacks of Cash + 3 Large NCAA Scandals from newly added schools = 8/10

Jim Delaney (Big Ten Commissioner, 1989-present)

In 1990, the Big Ten added Penn State. That move kick started a chain of events that eventually leads to UConn deciding to move up to Division 1-A. The next year, the Big East launched its football conference. About 10 years later, with the expected departure of Miami, Boston College, and Virginia Tech, UConn moved up to help keep the conference intact.

In the latest round of realignment, Delaney wanted New York City, so he took Rutgers. Boo. He did add Maryland to give UConn an opening in the ACC though, so it’s kind of a wash. As a state flagship with agricultural roots and presence across the northeast, UConn presents an interesting fit and value proposition for the Big Ten. Delaney’s continued insistence on not handing UConn a $40 million check annually is definitely a downer.

Blame Rating: 2/10

Barack Obama

Since the start of Obama’s second term, UConn compiled a 18-52 record. Coincidence? I THINK NOT.

Where was Obama when conference realignment was happening? Was he colluding with BIASED ESPN to ruin the time-honored tradition of UConn football? We’ll never know for sure.

Blame Rating: 7 Clay Travis figurines

Boston College

“Hi John this is Boston College on the line. I don’t think UConn should be in the ACC and because we have been such a dominant force in this league you’ll definitely respect these wishes so I can look like a tough guy after you make the decision you were already going to make.

“Even though athletic department strategies are usually kept very close to the vest, I’ll explain my role in your decision to the Boston Globe, and let them quote me directly so nobody can dispute my unwavering big dick energy.”

Yeah that conversation did not happen. And that Blumenthal lawsuit wasn’t relevant either.

Rating: 0/10

The Catholic 7/Big East re-boot

These institutions were the reason for the friction that led the Big East football schools to seek better opportunity. They also rallied against the idea of adding Penn State, which probably would have solidified the football conference forever.

Blame Rating: 5/10

Pittsburgh

Spearheaded the campaign to reject a lucrative (at the time) rights offer for the original Big East and then jumped ship with Syracuse when UConn was believed to be the original target. Making this list is the third-biggest win in Pitt history since the year 2000.

Blame Rating: 5/10

***

Are we missing anyone? Be sure to let us know or if you disagree with any of the above in the comments!