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    Sunday, September 24, 2023

    So far, UConn’s Jim Mora is good at finger-pointing ... what else?

    News item: Jim Mora referred to former UConn football coach Randy Edsall as “what’s his name” at Tuesday’s weekly news conference.

    Mora had just concluded a detailed, two-minute soliloquy on UConn player Rayonte Brown, who has overcome severe intestinal problems and abdominal surgery to get back on the field this season. Mora even thanked a media member for asking the question.

    Another media member subsequently asked Mora on the podium, “Is there anything else you can share about what he’s been through?”

    Mora’s answer: “I don’t have the knowledge. That was when, uh, uh, oh shoot, what’s his name? Oh, Edsall. When Edsall was here. So I don’t really know.”

    Here is what I know:

    Mora is well aware of Edsall, having done television color commentary for a UConn game when Edsall was the head coach.

    Brown was healthy and on the two-deep roster when Edsall left last September.

    Brown had abdominal surgery last December. Mora was named head coach in November. Mora’s reluctance to share more information Tuesday was disingenuous. The surgery happened on Mora’s watch.

    The aforementioned facts make one of the following three things true: 1) Mora is indicting himself for being unaware of what was major surgery to one of his players, particularly now in an era when student-athlete welfare issues have become paramount; 2) Mora threw the medical staff under the bus for not informing him of Brown’s status and subsequent progress; or 3) Mora is lying through his teeth about all of it.

    I’m betting on No. 3. Because here is what my ongoing education has taught me: Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours shine brighter. And Mora’s attempt here to ingratiate himself to the media and fan base by feigning ignorance about his predecessor’s name revealed far less about Edsall’s character and a whole lot more about Mora’s.

    “What’s his face” won the Big East twice, got UConn to the Fiesta Bowl, graduated his players and was lauded several times for the program’s academic achievements. In fairness: His second go-round here was significantly less successful and his early departure worthy of criticism, especially in a time where hot takes have staged a coup d’état on deeper thought.

    That Mora would use an epithet like “what’s his face” publicly — aimed at a coach who won more games at the current institution — tells me the man in charge of the UConn football program needs a remedial lesson in dignity. You’re not a fan, Mr. Mora. You are the coach. The face of the program. Send up a flare when you plan to act accordingly.

    Or is this who Mr. Mora really is? Insecure and petty?

    I reached out to Edsall for comment Tuesday morning. He had none.

    A more cynical fellow might point out that Mr. Mora has been assigned conquering hero status already by the media. This for beating an FCS school, getting thrown down a flight of stairs by Syracuse and for keeping a game close against Utah State — which has been outscored 90-7 since.

    Note to Mr. Mora: Careful, sir. You may want to enhance your own narrative here, lest some of us start to explore whether your glass house is shatterproof. You want to throw other coaches under the bus? Your prerogative. But blowback can unpleasant.

    This seems to be a trend now at State U. If game results don’t allow you to feel better about yourself, switch the narrative to the previous regime. Example: Dan Hurley was three seasons in at UConn and was still taking swipes at Kevin Ollie.

    A sampling of Hurley’s quotes from the 2021 season:

    Feb. 27: “We've come a long way. I don't think people understand how far we've come in three years to this point.”

    March 5: “When we got there, things were messy.”

    March 17: “James (Bouknight) has done so much for UConn. This place was in shambles when he got here.”

    March 18: “I could write a book, man. It's like you pop the hood sometimes, it's worse than what the car looks like. All those practices, every day when you're fighting over behavior and habits and mindset ... and the battle continues every day because you're trying to create a winning culture and a mindset. Certainly, it wasn't that type of mindset a couple of years ago.”

    I get that the relative obscurity of football independence and the leftover scars from the American Athletic Conference might create an inferiority complex. Might I suggest to Mr. Mora (and Mr. Hurley) that they mimic the actions of other (and more successful) coaches on campus: Geno Auriemma, Chris Dailey, Mike Cavanaugh and Jim Penders come to mind.

    Meantime, UConn fans should be very mindful that their head football coach might be nothing more than a point-the-finger guy. He chose to point his latest finger at “what’s his name.”

    The guy who made the Fiesta Bowl.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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