Former UConn player sounds off on coach firing

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

Paul Devlin