We’re here at the Burton Family Football Complex in Storrs. UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway and interim head football coach Hank Hughes spent a few brief minutes with the media to talk about the post-Randy Edsall era in Storrs.
— Hathaway first learned Edsall might be leaving when he looked down at his phone around 11:25 p.m. (Mountain Time) as he was getting on a bus back to the hotel following the Fiesta Bowl and saw a text message from Edsall. He also noticed he had a missed call from Edsall.
After calling Edsall back, Hathaway learned his coach was going to interview at Maryland.
The next morning at 5:25 a.m., Hathaway got a call from Maryland AD Kevin Anderson asking for permission to talk to Edsall.
“The search began Saturday night and continues full bore. We are working virtually around the clock on this search. It is our top priority,” Hathaway said. “We will be quick, but not hurry. We will be diligent but also cognizant of the recruiting period and the need to put permanent leadership in place.”
“In the mean time, Hank has my full confidence,” Hathaway added. “I know we have the right person at the wheel.”
— UConn has hired the search firm of Alden & Associates, which is based on Florence, Mass.
The primary “searcher”, if you will, will be Chuck Neinas, a well-known college headhunter.
— Hathaway met Monday with interim/acting UConn president Philip Austin and Larry McHugh, the chair of the UConn board of trustees to explain the search process and talk about how they move forward.
He also met with the UConn assistants at noon Monday.
— No deadline is set, but expect this not to drag out more than a week or two.
“I’m not going to put a timeline on this because it would be an artificial timeline,” Hathaway said.
— There is also a five-person university advisory committee that will aid in the search. That group will be made up of Scott Brown (UConn’s NCAA faculty rep), Bruce Cohen (the director of CPIA), Daniel McGhee (associate VP for diversity and equity), Carol Polifroni (professor in school of nursing), and Dana Wilder (assistant vice-provost).
— For starters, Hughes would love to shed the interim tag. He wants the job for good.
“I’ll say this as an assistant coach moving up to be the interim head football coach: I know two programs that had a lot of success promoting from within: Texas Christian and Boise,” Hughes said.
Hughes was asked by one reporter to confirm his interest in being the head coach full-time.
“Yes sir. Unquestionably. Enthusiastic about it,” Hughes said.
Hughes obviously knows his way around the Huskies and the campus, having been here 10 years.
“I’ll think I’m strong with our players and our team,” Hughes said. “I think we have great relationships throughout this building and throughout campus.”
— Hughes was asked if had a high enough “profile” to take over at UConn.
“I’m sure is a piece of the puzzle,” Hughes said. “I don’t know that it’s the answer to the puzzle.”
He then pointed out that he’s been around some high profile coaches before.
Hughes called a couple of his friends in the coaching community, John Harbaugh of the Ravens and Steve Spagnuolo of the Rams (himself a former UConn assistant), to ask if they would call Hathaway on his behalf. They apparently obliged.
— Hughes talked about the importance of continuity with the program.
“I myself have had other opportunities since I’ve been here,” Hughes said. “I like it here at UConn. My family is entrenched at here.”
— Hathaway tried to indicate that the he doesn’t believe the Huskies will take a step back with the coaching change.
“If anything our trip to Phoenix has done nothing more than further commit us to what we started here many years ago,” Hathaway said, “to pursue more Big East championships, more bowl games, more BCS bowl games.
“If anything, it stoked our fires even more,” Hathaway added. “To push forward and take this program on a continued path of enhancement and relentless striving for excellence.”
“We have momentum here. We’re going to build upon that momentum,” Hughes said. “We have a great staff here. They’re passionate, they’re confident, they’re familiar with UConn.”
— Hughes thanked Edsall for his efforts.
“He’s been both a mentor and a friend,” Edsall said. “We wish him, Eileen and their family the very best in the future.”
— Hughes met with the staff after being named interim head coach.
“Monday we sat down as a staff and we assessed where we were, what our situation was,” Hughes said. “We went through recruits. We have a full understanding of what needs to be accomplished over the next several months and weeks to get through this recruiting period. We charted our path.
“At this point we have a full compliment of coaches out on the road,” Hughes said. “We’re out and we’re seeing every single person we’ve offered, every kid we’ve committed.”
— Hughes says he wasn’t shocked when Edsall left.
“In this business you’re combat ready,” Hughes said. “If you’re not…It’s a game of constant transition. And life is a game of transition. There’s nothing guaranteed.”
Not that Hughes had any inkling Edsall was about to leave.
“We’re not in the know as assistants. That’s not our position,” Hughes said. “We’re out there working the job. We’re laying bricks. We’re the brick masons.”
— Hughes isn’t worried about transfers.
“I think we’ll sustain every kid in this program,” Hughes said.
He also thinks the recruits will stick around.
“If I’m the head football coach at this program we’ll sustain our recruits, we’ll enhance our recruiting, we’ll get better,” Hughes said. “Because we’ll have continuity.”
— Hughes is a pretty much the prototypical football coach. One of his strengths is obviously motivation.
Heck, I felt like hitting the sled or doing a few line drills myself.
“I can work with people. I can motivate players,” Hughes said. “In 32 years, if you can play, I’ll get you to play if you’ve got some talent.”