Column: Classy to the end
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 23:10
For anyone that has followed UConn football over the last 28 games, Monday’s news was less than surprising. In fact, for most, it was a welcome wave of relief.
Unless, of course, your name is Paul Pasqualoni.
“No, I didn’t (see it coming). Not really,” Pasqualoni said. “As a coach, I think you always know there’s a chance, you know things can happen. But I did not necessarily anticipate it, no.”
Let’s get this out of the way now: this is not a column in defense of Paul Pasqualoni.
Paul Pasqualoni may be a good football coach, but he wasn’t a good football coach for UConn.
Anyone who has watched or covered this team over the past two-and-a-half years could see that this simply was not a good fit.
Following the departure of Randy Edsall, the Huskies needed a coach capable of injecting life, pizzazz and a little creativity into the style of football played in Storrs.
Instead, they got Paul Pasqualoni.
With the program on the precipice of big things, but destabilized and at a crossroads, it needed a bold choice, a bit of a risk, a go-big-or-go-home attitude and a coach that embodied that mentality.
Instead, it got Paul Pasqualoni.
Throughout his tenure, Pasqualoni mentioned repeatedly that he was trying to do things “the right way” in building the UConn football program.
Perhaps off the field he was achieving that goal – that would take an intimate knowledge of the inner-workings at play that simply isn’t available to the public eye – we don’t know. But he wasn’t producing the results between the lines to show it.
After 10 wins and 18 losses, it was time for him to go and, rightfully, that’s what was done.
Luckily for those of us in and around UConn Country, his dismissal was done the right way – with class.
“I do want to thank Paul,” athletic director Warde Manuel said at T.J. Weist’s introductory press conference, “for his hard work and dedication to UConn and the state of Connecticut – he is one of our own. He’s a great person, he has a great family. This was not a result of lack of effort.”
Simple and effortless as those words may be, they showed a desire to treat the changing of the guard with a certain level of dignity and respect.
That’s more than can be said for those inside USC’s athletics office this week.
For those not following, Lane Kiffin, coach of the Trojans, was fired Sunday after several years of subpar performances and an unacceptable start to this season.
It should. But it also shouldn’t.
Because when USC decided it was time for Lane to go, it did so with a glaring absence of grace.
Upon arrival after a loss at Arizona State, Kiffin was pulled off the team bus at LAX, fired on the spot and left in the airport terminal to find his own ride home in the middle of the night – or more accurately, the wee hours of Sunday morning.
That kind of epic, sensational and almost unbelievable story may do wonders to satiate the bloodlust of rabid fans, but it does little to speak for the character of the program and the school it represents.
Thankfully, a day later, UConn did its fans – and itself – the service of taking a different, nobler tact.
Paul Pasqualoni responded in kind.
The quote from the former head coach that adorns the top of this story comes from a teleconference call that took place between Pasqualoni and the local media Monday night.
For 15 minutes, the man who openly admitted that this will be the first time since 1964 that he is not involved in football during an autumn weekend fielded questions on his thoughts, his failures, his future and the future of UConn.
It was an unnecessary step – indeed, a rare one – but a classy parting gesture.
And while the actions and words of both Pasqualoni and his former bosses may not change the damage that two-plus years of mediocrity and subpar football did to the program, at the very least, they chose not to further harm themselves with vengeance and thoughtlessness.
It may seem minute, but for the first time in a while, something went right with UConn football on Monday.
Now starts the recovery.