COLUMN: Burying the hatchet
Published: Sunday, September 15, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 15, 2013 23:09
When the Maryland Terrapins ran out of the tunnel before Saturday’s clash at Rentschler Field, the reaction was what you might have expected. Boos.
The jeers may have been a little louder than any other opponent the Huskies have faced, but nothing over the top considering who was roaming the sidelines for Maryland, our old pal Randy Edsall.
A lot has changed since Edsall last took the field at The Rent. UConn is no longer in the Big East, the old Jonathon logo has been phased out and Edsall is no longer the beloved figure he was in Connecticut. What a lot of UConn fans seem to forget is the great things that Edsall did during his time with the Huskies.
There is a reason that UConn became the fastest growing program in Division I history and part of that has to do with Edsall’s guidance and leadership he provided from 1998 to 2011.
It’s hard not to get emotional thinking back to one of the darkest days in UConn sports history, when cornerback Jasper Howard was murdered outside the Student Union in 2009. Edsall was put in a position that not many head coaches find themselves. He had to help not only a grieving family who just lost their son, but an entire community in shock.
Edsall handled Howard’s death with class and lead the Huskies to a victory over South Carolina in the PapaJohns.com Bowl.
That’s how I would like to remember Edsall.
Unfortunately the events that followed make it hard to view Edsall in a positive light. We all know the story. Edsall left his team in the dust following a loss to Oklahoma in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl. Like a bandit in the night, Edsall left for his “dream job” in Maryland. The worst part about it is his team had to find out about it through text messages and internet postings.
What has happened to the football program since Edsall’s departure is something most UConn fans would like to forget.
Can you blame them?
After back to back 5-7 seasons under Paul Pasqualoni, some fans are now looking back at the Edsall years with positive thoughts untainted by his departure in 2011. Just like anything in life, you never realize how good things are until they’re gone. Edsall might have turned his back on this university, but in the world of college athletics loyalty to a team, program or even a conference doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to.
While I will not forgive Edsall for what he did to his team, I can do my best to forget. Life moves on, coaches come and go. When I think back to the Edsall years at UConn I think about the 2010 undefeated season at home, the victory over Notre Dame in South Bend and two Big East Conference championships. This football program would not be where it is today without Edsall and that’s a fact.
Yesterday I read an article in the Washington Post about one of Edsall’s biggest fans in Connecticut. According to the article, Jeff Place suffered from a brain tumor and endured grueling surgeries and physical therapy to recover. On the eve of National Signing Day, one of the most important days for a head football coach, Edsall visited Place in the hospital. They have been close friends ever since.
“You find time or you make time,” Edsall told the Washington Post. “To me it could help somebody recover a little bit quicker, brighten their day by doing that. That’s important to me.”
You may still think Edsall is a traitor for the way he left UConn, I do as well. But I don’t think he’s a bad person. Sometimes in life good people make bad choices. Edsall’s lasting legacy at UConn might be tarnished a bit, but not his overall character.
Follow Tyler on Twitter @TylerRMorrissey