Column: Programs aren’t built in a day, everyone has to start somewhere
Published: Friday, September 20, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 20, 2013 01:09
They played their first game in 1879, and in 1896 they were a charter member of the original Big Ten Conference. They have the most wins in college football history and have won 11 national championships.
This is Michigan football.
On Saturday, one of the most historic college football teams in the nation will visit Rentschler Field to take on UConn, a program that has existed since 1896 but has only been playing at the Division 1-A level since 2000.
When you look at this matchup on paper it does not bode well for the Huskies, a team that’s off to an 0-2 start for the first time since 2002. I’ve accepted that this will not be UConn’s year. Yes, it’s still very early in the season and, in college football, teams can quickly turn things around. However, when you take a step back and really look at this Huskies squad, it’s clear this year is not their year.
That being said, why do we even bother talking about this non-conference game on UConn’s schedule?
While the end result may be a loss, it’s a testament to where UConn has come from in the past and where they are going in the future.
During most of the 20th century, the Huskies faced teams like Yale, Rhode Island and UMass. Not exactly powerhouse programs. In the 1990s under athletic director Lew Perkins, the Huskies prepared to make the jump to Division I-A, ushering in a new era in UConn football. Memorial Stadium was aging and fell below the 30,000 minimum occupancy level for fans, requiring UConn to move into its current home in East Hartford.
The Huskies applied to play in the Big East and on Sept. 17, 2004, the Huskies played their first Big East game, a 27-7 loss to Boston College. UConn finished 8-4 that year, earning a trip to the Motor City Bowl. In 2007, the Huskies earned a share of the Big East Conference title with West Virginia.
In 2009, UConn football was receiving national attention, but not for the right reasons. Junior cornerback Jasper Howard was stabbed to death outside the Student Union following a 38-25 victory over Louisville. After that game he said, “Play each play like it’s the last play you’ll ever play.”
Following Howard’s death, UConn lost its next three games by a total of just 10 points.
What happened next will live on in UConn sports history forever.
UConn traveled to Notre Dame, one of the most storied college football program in the nation. In two overtimes, the Huskies prevailed 33-30 off an Andre Dixon four-yard touchdown run. After the game, UConn coach Randy Edsall sent the game ball to Howard’s family in Florida.
UConn will always be a basketball school. That will never change, but given time and lots of it, the Huskies can also be a perennial top 25 team in college football.
In college football or sports in general, it’s about wins and losses. But don’t invest too much stock in this game if Michigan emerges victorious. This game is just another milestone for UConn and a chance to face the cream of the crop in college football. Don’t be discouraged; one day somebody will relish in the opportunity to play the Huskies.