A lot of little things added up to Edsall's departure from UConn
My evidence is nothing more than the residual effect of various conversations with him in recent months. And conversations with friends of his. But I believe this is the truth: Randy Edsall's tipping point at UConn happened like tooth decay, a little at a time. There was no event that violated the demilitarized zone, no excessive straw that waylaid the camel.
I believe most of the reasons he left Connecticut to coach Maryland centered around a burgeoning lack of respect for the way athletic director Jeff Hathaway did his job. Edsall perceived a baffling lack of support from his boss.
There are several examples, not the least of which was Edsall's aggravation at having to spar with the admissions department by himself.
During one weekly media session, Edsall (off the podium) talked about how he spent UConn's first bye week of this season talking to admissions. His message: More stringent admittance requirements were imperiling the program.
Edsall said, essentially, the university was beginning to require its prospective athletes to have higher grade-point averages and higher standardized test scores "than a few years ago," on top of a more rigorous "second review" process for athletes who don't meet the increased standards.
Later, Edsall showed me the "Admissions Athletic Review Procedures for Fall 2011," dated Sept. 23 of this year, detailing the requirements. Edsall said even players who earned their degrees in previous seasons probably wouldn't be admitted now. He said that making a kid wait on UConn was recruiting suicide because they'd just go somewhere else. Moreover, he wasn't sure other schools in the league were as discerning.
Edsall was most irritated, though, at having the conversation with admissions without Hathaway. He believes Hathaway should have been there to support him and perhaps keep discussions heading toward compromise. He believed he'd earned that much, given how the football program was lauded frequently — and nationally — for academic achievement.
There are more examples of Edsall's angst. This was not solely about admissions, although it's a symptom of the general malady that led to his departure.
Do I think Edsall would have stayed if he perceived a more supportive environment in the athletic department and the university? Yes. And while I believe Edsall began to wonder whether he accomplished all he could here — get to the BCS and play a far superior opponent is as good as it might get — he had been here 12 years, was being paid well and knew that winning the Big East was achievable.
I'm not sure the degree to which Hathaway reached out to Edsall — or if he did at all — in the wake of the historic victory at South Florida to discuss a possible contract extension. I'm also not entirely siding with Edsall, who was still under contract for two more years.
Plus, in his time here, UConn and the state sunk plenty of money into the program, building the Burton Family Football Complex and Rentschler Field.
Still, though, the enormity of what Edsall accomplished made it paramount that Hathaway and the university do all they could to keep him.
Did they do that?
I don't believe so.
Hathaway had a chance to extend Edsall's contract and keep the Hot Name Du Jour at UConn. He could have made this job look like a destination. Instead, events have turned it into a stepping stone. Maybe because of its location and lack of tradition, it's always going to be a stepping stone. But the perception could have been different. And the coach's departure to the hated ACC could have been avoided.
I've never made it a secret that I hold Edsall in the highest esteem. I think the guy is a first-rate coach whose teams played with discipline and toughness that was to be envied. He also made academic achievement a priority. The best night I ever spent on campus was a "career night" for the football team when program graduates employed in various professions returned to advise the current players in any way possible.
OK. Now after the hosannas, I think the guy is bananas for going to Maryland. For this reason: It's harder to win the ACC. The league championship game component requires a hurdle that the Big East does not have. Plus, he'll need to figure out how to beat Virginia Tech, which nobody really has since expansion. And heaven forbid Florida State and Miami get better.
Think what you want about Edsall. I knew him as a good man and a good coach who made UConn a better place. Lew Perkins made the right hire 12 years ago. Hathaway better do the same.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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