The underdog (UConn football) has a story to tell
Newport, R.I. — It is most counterintuitive to think such a thing. And yet there’s something almost mystical developing right now with UConn football — forgotten, but not gone until a few weeks ago — but now perhaps lovable underdogs all over again.
Suddenly, the 1-11 season with the epically bad defense, dwindling number of butts in the seats and overall feeling of ennui is slowly caving to sentiment. Maybe that’s what happens when the program gets forsaken by its own leadership, leaving a bunch of earnest coaches and kids to fend for themselves.
And so it was Tuesday morning on a place called Goat Island, a little wedge of heaven at a Newport marina, where the Huskies attended what is very likely their last American Athletic Conference Football Media Day. University officials decided recently to move back to the Big East, leaving football without a home, unless you subscribe to the theory that playing an independent schedule is something other than a path to extinction.
Weird vibe here Tuesday. Almost like UConn was seeing its in-laws for the first time after the divorce.
Talk about the weather?
How ’bout those Yanks?
The Huskies were nonetheless a popular topic, even if nobody had any answers forthcoming. In the absence of fact, presumption and speculation always fill in the blanks. Still, amid “I don’t know” and “we’ll have to wait and see,” the very idea that the football program fell victim to the U.B.P. (University Basketball Posse) almost makes you want to root harder for the Fighting Edsalls in the face of such hypocrisy.
Edsall was asked if he agreed the Huskies have become a better story because of recent developments.
“Could be,” he said. “Since I came back we’ve had adversity. I’ve had adversity with my son (Corey, who state officials weren’t sure could be on Edsall’s staff). Adversity with what’s going on now. But it ain't gonna get me. Ain’t gonna get these guys. We’re better than that. We’re bigger than that. We’re tougher than that. What I’ve got to do is make sure I’m doing the right things. They’ll follow my lead.”
They were following his lead Tuesday. As Edsall mouthed the words “ain’t gonna get these guys,” UConn senior Donovan Williams shook his head vehemently, indicating perhaps an “us against the world” thing afoot.
Might make for some interesting viewing in the fall.
“We’re going through a process,” Edsall said. “You gotta believe in the process. It’s no different than what we did before (during Edsall’s first reign). Sometimes the last place you see results is on the scoreboard. I would say don’t doubt us. Don’t doubt the kids. That to me is the biggest thing.
“Like anything else, if you’re going to make an investment, you don’t go put your money in the stock market and then pull it out after one day when it goes up 200 dollars. You want to make it grow. We’re stock that was there and went down. Now it’s going back up. Then you reap the benefits. It’s part of society now. Everybody wants something immediately. They don’t want to pay the price and be patient and make the investment.”
Edsall was understandably vague at times, either uncomfortable or unable to discuss the program’s future landing spot. The best athletic director David Benedict could muster was the following: “We’re trying to put our best foot forward as it relates to putting a competitive schedule together.”
“I appreciate you guys asking,” Edsall said, alluding to questions about what he tells prospective recruits or about potential schedules. “I’ve had a few weeks to prepare myself for all this, too. But, again, once we understand and we know what’s going on, all those questions can be answered. Right now, I’m not going to speculate. I’m just getting ready for 2019 and for Wagner (season opener).”
How we choose to spend our disposable income is inherently subjective. Maybe you view UConn football as Dead Program Walking. Free country. Maybe it was a month ago. But now? The forsaken underdogs have stories to tell.
“All the other stuff is for the Board of Trustees, university leadership and David (Benedict),” Edsall said. “We’ll go anywhere, play anybody. But the focus is all on Wagner and 2019. Nobody knows what we’re trying to do with the program and how I feel. I’m the head coach. I own it. Nobody knows more what needs to be done and how it needs to be better than myself. Maybe when I was younger I’d say something different. Now I have nothing to say. Shut up and go do our work.”
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro