When UConn football players and staff take to Rentschler Field for homecoming on Saturday, the team will enter a new chapter, long overdue.
Understandably frustrated by the squad’s 41-12 loss on Sept. 28 to an unspectacular Buffalo program, UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel shortly thereafter fired football head coach Paul Pasqualoni. While Pasqualoni reportedly was surprised, most fans were not. Judging by the subsequent flurry of responses on social media, followers of UConn sports welcomed this early-season dismissal. Many people even wondered what took so long, considering an 0-4 start this season and back-to-back 5-7 records during the previous two campaigns.
To his defense, Pasqualoni took over in a tough spot. Hired in 2011, he replaced UConn’s most-successful football head coach, Randy Edsall. An impassioned man who from 1999-2010 guided the Huskies from Division 1-AA to 1-A, Edsall’s impressive post-season resume of five bowl games included the 2010 BCS Fiesta Bowl. Known more as a restrained individual, Pasqualoni faced no simple task following in the footsteps of someone whose commanding energy powered a winning tradition where once had been a sub-par program.
After Edsall left, UConn regressed. Flashing echoes of former prowess — recall wins last year over Pittsburgh and Louisville — the team has nevertheless looked lackluster in play, attaining poor results. The offense bottomed out in the first four games of 2013, ranking 199th out of 123 1-A squads in overall productivity. A 33-18 loss to 1-AA Towson on opening day indicated a program pointed in the wrong direction. Whether due to talent drain or ineffective coaching — both responsibilities of Pasqualoni — the Huskies this season were unacceptably tame.
Manuel made the correct decision, even if it came with eight games still remaining in 2013. If the university wishes to be taken seriously for football on a national scale (which it does), then such levels of futility warrant swift, significant consequences. Nothing against Pasqualoni as a person, of course, but as a UConn coach he showed no signs of overseeing long-term success in Storrs.
Manuel has received fair amounts of praise for employing such a short leash on the Huskies’ coach. However, the onus of responsibility is now on the AD to secure a quality replacement.
Predating Manuel, the hiring process that brought about Pasqualoni seemed rushed and uncreative, focusing on candidates too conventional, too out of touch. In 41 years of coaching football, Pasqualoni established a record of achievement in both the NCAA and NFL; but before UConn he had not led a college team since Syracuse in 2004.
In locating a replacement, Manuel must not repeat mistakes made by his predecessors. His new hire should demonstrate a recent history of grasping the modern college-football system, and be more in line with the fiery, visionary ambition of Edsall than the reserved orthodoxy of Pasqualoni.