Column: Pasqualoni and the sinking ship
Published: Monday, September 2, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 09:09
Remember when UConn beat Notre Dame?
It is a memory that will always be with me. There I sat, a Connecticut-bred, UConn-bound high school senior. All I had known all my life was the culture of being a UConn fan.
After watching Andre Dixon skip across the goal line and letting out a shriek that would put teenage girls at a Justin Bieber concert to shame, I let the tears flow. These tears served multiple purposes. First of all, this was the first win since the death of Jasper Howard, and it came in South Bend. But it was also the biggest win in the young history of a growing program.
That win came in 2009, and as I sat there thinking and tearing up, I flashed back to the days when we used to have a football stadium sitting behind Gampel – the days when I would sit and talk with Jim Calhoun during a game, the days when I would go use the bathrooms in Gampel and come out to find Kelly Schumacher sitting in my seat. My first UConn football game was at Memorial Stadium in 1998 when Skip Holtz was the head coach of a Division I-AA team preparing to make the leap to the big time.
It did not seem all that long ago at the time, but to think that in just 10 years, we had gone from I-AA to three-time I-A bowl champions and were beating Notre Dame with Touchdown Jesus as a witness. Life was good.
I am no longer a fan; I am a journalist whose job is to cover the team. But whether you are a fan, a long-time beat writer like some of the great ones I work alongside or you recently moved away from fandom to pursue your dream, like me, we have all been asking the same thing since Thursday night.
What happened to UConn football?
After two straight 5-7 seasons, Paul Pasqualoni was already sitting on a warm seat. But after a 33-18 loss to Towson, a FCS opponent, that seat is now red hot.
It is seemingly impossible to explain. A team that not all that long ago was an automatic qualifier for a BCS game was used like a FCS team’s chew toy.
To be fair, Towson is one of the elite FCS programs. The Tigers entered the 2013 season ranked No. 12 in the division, and in 2012 they nearly beat LSU in Baton Rouge. But all the same, it is a FCS program. UConn should not have been thrown around the way they were.
They even said they knew what to expect. In last week’s pregame press conference, Pasqualoni said this would be the hardest home opener since he had been at UConn. After the game, Chandler Whitmer and Obi Melifonwu both said that they were not surprised by Towson.
So UConn was prepared for Towson and still got tossed around on the line of scrimmage and Terrence West was able to look like Terry Caulley.
Apart from a couple of passes from Whitmer to Shakim Phillips, UConn never looked like they were on Towson’s level. That’s right, UConn needed to get on Towson’s level if they wanted to win.
Oh, and it is worth noting that while the official announced attendance was over 30,000, there is no way there were 30,000 people in the stands. Besides the student section, there was not a single section in Rentschler that was completely full, and by the end of the fourth quarter, there was two rows of students left in the student section.
This is UConn football under Paul Pasqualoni. UConn fans are miserable, at least according to USA Today, which has UConn at No. 2 in its rankings for the most miserable fan base. UConn went from Fiesta Bowl to a laughing stock in three years.
Blame Randy Edsall for sneaking away into the night? Possibly. But a program can still succeed when the program builder leaves.
Blame Jeff Hathaway? I think that is fair. Hathaway was given the task of hiring the new coach when he knew he was on the way out. Great move, UConn.
But the most blame has to go directly to Pasqualoni.
I spoke to a former resident of Syracuse, N.Y. who lived there during Pasqualoni’s time with the Orange. There was not a single nice word from this person about Pasqualoni.
“He ruined the program,” he said.
The same can be said at UConn. Two straight 5-7 seasons would be acceptable if it was 2005. But Randy Edsall set a standard; he brought this program to a point where a season without a bowl and a run at the conference title is inexcusable. Here we are in the third year post-Edsall and the thinking is, “Let’s just go 6-6. That would be a miracle!”