I don’t know who UConn needs as its next coach. I don’t know what direction the Huskies will go.
But I know what they don’t need.
*UConn doesn’t need someone with Connecticut connections
The idea that a coach can recruit the hell out of this tiny state, assemble a roster of Connecticut natives and build a football powerhouse is ludicrous.
As Randy Edsall told The New London Day last fall, “I say this with no disrespect to the state of Connecticut, but there’s just not a lot of Division I football players in that state.”
Beloved by local high school coaches, Paul Pasqualoni secured Middlefield’s Tim Boyle (which could turn out to be the highlight of his tenure), Ansonia’s Arkeel Newsome and Madison’s Matt Walsh, to name a few. Edsall dug up Brookfield’s Scott Lutrus, Waterford’s Zach Hurd and Bridgeport’s Trevardo Williams, all of whom fit well with other pieces from Florida, Georgia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Both Pasqualoni and Edsall found starters in the state because, let’s face it, every school in America finds starters in its state. But the state’s elite prospects, the ones being wooed by SEC schools, have always left Connecticut. Examine:
1.) Aaron Hernandez, Bristol, 2007: Committed to UConn as a sophomore and then backed out to sign with Florida. In retrospect, the Huskies lucked out.
2.) John Sullivan, Greenwich, 2003: Notre Dame scooped up a commitment from the future NFL All-Pro lineman. According to Scout.com, UConn wasn’t a consideration.
3.) Silas Redd, Stamford, 2010: UConn lost Redd to Penn State (and, in the wake of its scandal, Penn State lost him to USC).
4.) Jordan Reed, New London, 2009: Committed to Florida as a quarterback and eventually converted to tight end. Now he’s with the Washington Redskins. Again, no UConn on his list.
The point? Until UConn upgrades its program, it will have trouble securing the rare blue-chip Connecticut kid. And UConn won’t upgrade its program by filling its roster with in-state recruits.
*UConn doesn’t need a lifer
Would the Huskies prefer their next coach to stick around for a decade? Of course. But it’s not a necessity. This job isn’t what it was when Pasqualoni took over three years ago. Conference realignment, two straight 5-7 seasons and losses to Towson and Buffalo made sure of that. It’s possible — likely, even — that the best candidate views UConn as a quick rebuilding project, as a rung up the ladder to a higher-profile job. And that’s not a bad thing. Hiring someone who has his eyes on the SEC (or NFL) can pay off:
1.) Houston: Cougars football in the 90s was akin to the bowl cut: You look back and can’t believe how horrible it was. Two coaches went 32-79 before Art Briles arrived in 2003. He bolted for Baylor after five years and was replaced by Kevin Sumlin, who bailed for Texas A&M after four. What’s left? A respectable program with only two losing seasons since 2005.
2.) Utah: Yes, Meyer left for Florida, but in compiling a 22-2 record, he forever altered the athletic department’s future. His successor, Kyle Whittingham, is now 74-33 overall, 7-1 in bowl games and 1-0 in conference realignment: The Utes secured a spot in the Pac-12.
3.) Syracuse: Doug Marrone managed two eight-win seasons with Syracuse, lifting the Orange from the depths that only Greg Robinson could reach. Marrone is now with the Bills, and Syracuse, which no longer has a pitiful program (just a pretty mediocre one), is in the ACC.
4.) Stanford: A sputtering team (16-40 from 2002-06) found Jim Harbaugh, who found Andrew Luck and eventually moved onto the San Francisco 49ers. New coach David Shaw inherited a perennial top 10 program, and he’s kept the Cardinal elite.
*UConn doesn’t need an NFL guy
NFL coaches may seem alluring, but the results have been alarming. For every Pete Carroll, there are four or five of these guys:
1.) Mike Sherman, Texas A&M: The former Packers head coach lasted four seasons in College Station. He topped six wins in just one.
2.) Charlie Weis, Notre Dame/Kansas: Maybe it’s just impossible to win at Kansas. Like many before him, Weis finds himself on that perpetual hot seat in Lawrence.
4.) Dennis Erickson, Arizona State: After posting a 10-3 record in his first year, Erickson never had a winning season. He was shown the door in 2011.
*UConn doesn’t need someone with TOO much experience
Coaches hired at the age of 55 or older usually don’t fare well.
Now, that’s not meant as a blanket statement because Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier were brought in past their 55th birthdays. But let’s be real: No one the caliber of Saban or Spurrier would give the UConn job 0.5 seconds of thought.
This job is middle-of-the-road, at best. And here’s what happens when middle-of-the-road programs hire over-the-hill coaches:
3.) Charlie Weis, 55, Kansas: Already discussed.
4.) Dennis Erickson, 60, Arizona State: See above.
5.) Tom O’Brien, 58, N.C. State: Posted a winning record, but was fired.
6.) Butch Davis, 55, North Carolina: Fired and set the program back
7.) Paul Pasqualoni, 61, UConn: You get the point.