I’m going to be honest here, I have absolutely nothing positive to say about the state of Connecticut football. We’ve written about football programs that are in a bad way before. Hell, on one side of the ball we’re a football program in a bad way right now. I know how to wrap my arms around bad football - I’ve previewed ACC offenses for years. This, however, is something else. This is program-level rot.
The 2021 season was Connecticut’s first as an FBS independent. Life as an independent began in East Hartford with the head coach, retread Randy Edsall, announcing that he was retiring at the end of the season. Twenty-four hours later Edsall announced he was retiring immediately, and collecting his full salary.
Such deals are not unusual at this level and honestly may cost less than the price of legal proceedings. The school is already entangled in a protracted battle with former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie, who was fired for cause to avoid paying the rest of his contract. They are, in effect, pulling a Jeff Long here, and Jeff Long got fired.
Coaches in both football and basketball notice how you treat other coaches, and would potentially be less likely to take the UConn job if Edsall was told to kick rocks. The money may not be worth the cost to reputation at what is already a hard place to find a football coach.
It still has to be frustrating for fans to pay a coach whose most newsworthy accomplishment in his five-year-long second stint was beating accusations of nepotism in a saga that involves a court case and last-second statehouse legislation.
The current offensive coordinator, Frank Giufre, is in his first year in the role after previously serving as an offensive line coach for most of his career. Giufre, with a new title and grayer hair, is now training himself to focus on the details of the passing game outside of just protections. You can tell: in August he joked about having to learn the names of his wide receivers. At least, I think it was a joke. Fortunately for Giufre, odds are decent he won’t be asked to strain himself by focusing beyond the line of scrimmage next year.
The Huskies do have a decent running game and that has to be to Giufre’s credit, but this is not a man who is likely to try to scheme up ways to pull off an upset.
This is by all accounts one of, if not the worst football teams in the country. That is not a joke, one of the other possibly worst teams in the nation (UMass) dropped UConn by two touchdowns in October. The Huskies are only going to Clemson (after two consecutive bye weeks at that) to collect a 1.6 million dollar buyout to keep the athletic department going. The Huskies' goal for this week appears to be coming in as healthy as they can and trying to get out without injuries.
Those new facilities do not fund themselves, and as the governor of the state felt the need to announce because even an untrained observer can tell this is not a good situation, Connecticut is committed to remaining a division one football team. As of now, the Huskies are only really an FBS team on paper, but I can respect the “any passing grade is a passing grade” approach.
There was a potentially fun human interest story going into this game, as Taisun’s brother Tyler Phommanchanh wound up starting a few games for the Huskies and was playing pretty well. Then he tore two ligaments in his knee against Vanderbilt. The brothers are still excited to see each other for the first time since their house burned down, a day after their grandmother passed away, just before Christmas last year.
What I’m getting at by telling you this is there is a silver lining if you go looking for it this weekend, but you’re going to have to work hard to find it and it’s going to be more tarnished than you’d hoped. This is going to be a game for the Clemson coaching staff to try to work out some kinks, and they have more than enough to focus on to keep them busy for four quarters. For Connecticut, it’s going to be a weekend to get through. For me? I’m left wondering what other games are on, and if Clemson is going to cover that forty-point spread.
I’ve got to tip my cap to the athletic department for finding a way to play essentially two FCS caliber teams in the same season without being called out on it. But this is essentially just a more depressing version of playing South Carolina State, and the visitors bring a worse band. “Clemson is going to win and will try to show those bastards in Vegas what’s up” is about the most compelling angle I can come up with to keep things interesting this weekend.
The nearest Arby’s to Clemson’s campus is off of I-93, right by the Ingles.