Former UConn player sounds off on coach firing

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I am writing this letter as a lifelong resident of the state of Connecticut, a former Husky football player from 1964-68, a high school football coach, a college football coach and finally as a high school athletic director in Connecticut for 24 years. I cannot allow the firing of Paul Pasqualoni and George DeLeone to pass by without airing my concerns for the future of football at the University of Connecticut as well as expressing my personal and professional feelings.

I want to make it clear that this is not about making a change in the UCONN Football coaching staff, but rather the unprofessional, unsupportive and thoughtless manner by which the Administration of the University of Connecticut handled this matter. I owe this much to the existing football staff at UCONN, the high school football coaches in the state of Connecticut and my teammates while at UCONN.

On a personal level, I have always been proud of the athletic program at UCONN. I was very fortunate to have played for some great coaches while at UCONN in the 1960′s. I was also fortunate to have a role model as an Athletic Director in John Toner, who was responsible for the hiring of Geno Auriemma and Jim Calhoun, just to mention a couple. It was John Toner who brought UCONN to national prominence with these hires. Coach Toner always handled all situations with class.

Now we have an athletic director who has been characterized as a “Rock Star”. We don’t need a rock star who is more interested in his career than with the coaches that work with him. Rock stars by nature love the limelight; I’m afraid that’s exactly what we have, a rock star and not a leader.

As an athletic director, every time I had to release a coach, I accepted part of the responsibility for that failure. How much responsibility is our athletic director willing to accept in this situation? Just as our athletic director changed the design of the logo while in Buffalo, he did the same thing at UCONN to rebrand. Why rebrand in light of our success nationally, from national championships in many sports to numerous bowl appearances in football. WHY? I, for one resent it, those of us that played a part in building the program identified ourselves with our logo and not the cartoon-looking helmets that are being worn today. Just as in Buffalo the football coach was fired — sound familiar?

While I’m at it, for me, it will always be the University of Connecticut and not UCONN. Also, why was UCONN not accepted into the ACC? Was it because the athletic director failed to actively pursue admission? Further, I resent the fact that we do not have any UCONN grads in any athletic decision making positions. I find this appalling; this is our program and our state.

We need a leader who does not have his own agenda or who caves into media pressure, but rather one who works with and supports his coaches. I’m glad I am not coaching at UCONN under this regime.

Also troubling to read in the paper was an interview that was done with Mr. Burton, who is responsible for the donation that made the Burton Family Football Complex a reality. The article states: “Hours after the school dismissed Pasqualoni as its head coach Monday, Burton gave Hearst Connecticut Newspapers an exclusive interview. He said he was tipped off about the change by athletic director Warde Manuel.”

So the question is: does being a donor give him the right to receive inside information from the athletic department, as was stated in the article? People donate out of appreciation for what is being done at a university or to help improve the university, not expecting anything in return. This concept appears to have been forgotten.

And by the way, did I read correctly that our president, Susan Herbst, is on one of Mr. Burton’s corporate boards? Please keep in mind it’s not his money that built this program, but rather the coaches and athletes that came before his donation.

As for the press, congratulations on creating a feeding frenzy, a job well done. One writer actually posted a report card each week after each game, what a joke! It might be valid if he understood football. I fully understand the power of the press and how it works – he who has the pen last, wins.

So have at it, expressing my thoughts is more important than having the last word. This is not the University of Connecticut I know and love. If this is what big time athletics has done to us then the Yankee Conference was a better fit after all. I for one will not ever attend another UCONN football game under this present regime; however I will always root for the Huskies in my own way.

Vin Iovino

UCONN Class of 1968 New Milford, CT

Categories: General
Paul Devlin

11 Responses

  1. Greg says:

    How was UConn classless, unprofessional and unsupportive? The fact that they let Coach P stay as long as they did is more support than he would have received at any self-respecting program. No one that enjoys watching a successful UConn program will regret anything about this coaching change aside from the fact it was not done sooner.
    It’s a shame that CT high school interests like those advocated by the likes of Iovino got UConn into this mess in the first place. Let’s make sure UConn doesn’t make the mistake of including them in the process again.

  2. Ann says:

    GREAT letter Mr. Iovino–I agree wholeheartedly!!

  3. jeb says:

    Anytime someone voices an opinion the first thing the bloggers do is attack that person without properly reading what that person is saying.

    Mr Iovino was not critisizing the coaching change at UConn only the unprofessional, unsupportive and thoughtless manner by which the University of Connecticut’s Administration handled the entire matter.

    He also questioned why the Athletic Department changed the team logo. I for one agree with Mr. Iovino. What was wrong with the old logo?

    Thank you Mr. Iovino for voicing your opinion…UConn has always done things in a very professional manner but this is beneath them.

    On a personal note I think the new coaching staff is making a huge mistake by playing Tim Boyle. Let the kid have four full years of varsity football instead of three
    Why waste a whole year of his career.

  4. Donnn says:

    Pasq was on borrowed time and should have been fired last year. And then Buffalo? I repeat, BUFFALO? This was a school that made a BCS game not too long ago and now losing to Buffalo? Warde made the right move but should have done it earlier.

    Hiring Pasq was at the WORST possible time for Uconn with conference realignment taking place and people know what Pasq brings- nothing. We weren’t taken seriously because we took a step backwards hiring Pasq in football and now we are stuck in a crappy conference NO Uconn fan wants in.

    As for Bogdan’s comment- so do you think USC will not get any more college football talent because they let go of their coach mid season also?

  5. No Axe to Grind says:

    What an insane…rambling letter. It would be laughable if it was not so poorly written and sad. He talks about folding to outside interests as being the reason Pasqualoni was fired. I would like to point out that outside interests was the ONLY reason that he was hired. A bunch of CT High School coaches who worship him because he is “one of them” that made it big, pressured the administration with threats of not sending their players to UConn in the future. Pasqualoni’s record on the field and on the recruiting trail speaks for itself. He was a failure in EVERY aspect of his short, but far to long stay as Head Coach at UConn. Like he did at Syracuse, he has set UConn Football back at least 10 years. He took a middle of the pack, program on the rise and completely and totally decimated and destroyed it. Turned it into one of the worst D1 programs in the country in just 2 1/2 years. You, as an Alumni, should be thrilled that that this embarrassing chapter in UConn Football is now over.

    I will leave you with this Mr. Iovino…and this should say it all. Multiple reports (including twitter posts from kids in the classrooms) state that the majority of players cheered and pumped their fists in class when they heard that the coach was relieved of his duties. He had clearly lost his players as they were thrilled that he was let go. Is that the person you want running your program Mr. Iovono? A man that has lost the backing and respect of his players? That alone is a reason to let him go.

  6. bogdan bogdanovich says:

    The classless way in which PP was fired will come back to haunt the UConnn football program for many years. What self respecting high school coach would ever send a player to this chaotic program?

  7. Matt says:

    Nothing to see here folks

  8. Greg says:

    This might have been the worst written and most obvious revenge tirade published in the history of this fine newspaper. UConn made a decision to move on from an ineffectual, losing coach who perhaps did the most harm (other than Jeff Hathaway for hiring Pasqualoni) for UConn’s national standing. This move should be celebrated. UConn fired the guy the CT HS coaches demanded they hire in the first place and then the author has the nerve to put this at the feet of Mr. Burton? You can’t bemoan special interests in college athletics when it was your organization’s special interests that got Pasqualoni hired to begin with. The author then goes into a full scale wandering rant mode with topics that have nothing to do with the supposed mishandling of the firing process. This screed only remains interesting if one reads looking for the next train wreck of a point being made by the author. Seriously, I hope you sit there smugly thinking you really told ‘em at UConn when in fact you’ve pointed out to everyone how out of touch you really are with what is going on with this state.

  9. buddy says:

    Mr. Iovino, you are way off on this matter. After 2+ years it was clear that the players did not respond to this coach or his associate. They have given up on them. He should have been fired at the end of last season. He was not hired by Mr. Manuel. I do not agree with Mr. Manuel on some issues, but I don’t disagree with him on this. Mr. Manuel is not looking for UConn’s downfall. Although he may have some role in UConn’s current conference situation, it has recently been made clear in recent emails that have been released to the public that he was not primarily responsible for UConn’s being bypassed in conference realignment. College football is king these days. I doubt that anyone wants UConn to go back to the Yankee Conference days. Would anyone have dreamed of a national championship in any sport in those days? I think not. Furthermore, if UConn had listening to Mr. Burton back then, it would not be in the dire straits that it is now. The hiring of the former coach was a disaster for UConn and it may never recover from this blunder, and that is thanks to the previous AD, not the current one.

  10. Aron Buch says:

    Mr Iovino as a season ticket holder I have a VERY hard time taking your comments seriously. The fact you p,ayed football at UCONN with George DeLeone says it all! Warde Manuel had nothing to do with rebranding at Buffalo, and he had nothing to do with the hiring of Pasqualoni..that wasnon Jeff Hathaway who did more to ruin UCONN athletics than any athletic director ever has! The fact you are basically supporting a man who coached his position so poorly yet boast of being a former UCONN player and high school athletic director doesn’t say much about you as an educator! As for the Ct HS football Coaches…you AD’s and your coaches need to petition the CIAC and get the restrictions in OTA’s lifted..make CT HS football rules more like NJ. Maybe you should spend some more time trying to improve your sport and help kids out instead of sticking your nose into something that you have already destroyed! Some of your fellow colleagues have made some really mature comments to the New Haven Register about basically black listing UCONN coaches again, they sound about as childish as your rant here! In closing, I believe that if Pasqualoni had let DeLeone go after last season he would still be employed right now…most likely would have been fired after the season, but would have not lost his job after the fourth game of the season. But from a PAYING season ticket ho,der’s point of view..those two couldn’t have left fast enough!

  11. Tim says:

    Mr. Iovino:

    Have you been living in a bubble for the last 30 years? When exactly would have been the right time to fire HCPP? The entire fan base understands and understood he was a terrible coach, who was hired by a previous regime! Your anger is misplaced and misguided.
    While I am not a fan of Warde Manuel was he to wait until November when the 7000 people are in the Rent to do this?
    While I’m sure day-to day he has forgotten more than I’ll ever know, it was clear football has passed Former HCPP by.
    Regarding Team Report Cards, again have you lived in a bubble? Should we ignore how terrible the team has been, D1 football isn’t about everyone getting a trophy, it is a sport and business.
    Regarding UCONN people, neither Jim Calhoun or Geno were UCONN people, they came from other places and have become UCONN people, should we have gotten rid of them?
    Warde Manuel deserves his opportunity to IMPROVE the program, not set it back.
    Your letter sounds more like you are a disgruntled friend of Former HCPP and not a real fan/alumni, your presence will not be missed!