I Would Like To Coach UConn
Consider this my application.
UConn is looking for a new head football coach. Head coach Randy Edsall announced after an embarrassing loss to Holy Cross on Saturday that he would be retiring at the end of the season. Two days later, he decided that his season had ended, resigning immediately and passing the torch to interim Lou Spanos.
This might be the hardest coaching job in America, at least at the higher levels of football. UConn is a program with very little in the way of history, tradition, institutional investment, recruiting geography, talent, or even a conference to keep it afloat after the basketball programs led a charge to the Big East and out of the AAC, leaving the football program homeless.
Once a power of sorts in the Yankee Conference, UConn is one of several former FCS standouts that made a leap up to the FBS ranks after fielding successful teams for years, only to find itself without the talent base needed to build a sustainable program when competing with the biggest programs in the sport for recruits and on the field.
It did find some success in the zombie Big East during Edsall’s first run in town, riding both the momentum of its FCS success and a legitimately strong recruiter in Edsall to the middle of a bad conference, alongside programs like Rutgers and USF that found similar eras of success in the mid-2000s. Since the conference shuttered football, though, UConn has found itself in a place not dissimilar from that of the Scarlet Knights, or Syracuse, or even rival UMass, which managed to make the leap even later than UConn did.
Put simply, it’s in the middle of an area that doesn’t have enough football talent to sustain one of these programs, let alone nearly a dozen. Rutgers has the benefit of New Jersey and Big Ten membership and Syracuse can make a claim for New York as a member of the ACC, but UConn, like UMass, is pretty much shit out of luck. It has very little to sell purely as a program, and it’s really only gotten worse during Edsall’s second run, which saw the Huskies drop out of the AAC, where they were a consistent bottom feeder, and into the ranks of the independents.
Unfortunately for Edsall, their experience on their own has been much closer to that of UMass or New Mexico State, rather than BYU, Notre Dame, or even Liberty – thanks in part to the fact that UConn is without a church upon which it can prop itself.
All of this is to say: this is an insanely shitty job, one that no sane person would ever take. It’s a dead-end, a career killer, a place where no man has consistently succeeded at this level, and where you would have to be absolutely out of your mind to think you could change that, especially now with the independent status. It’s one of the few places where college football media’s death drive to push every program it doesn’t understand into the FCS ranks actually has a little bit of merit.
No coach worth anything of value would have any good reason to take this job beyond a paycheck, which is almost literally the only thing that UConn will be able to offer, likely yielding it a journeyman FCS head coach looking for a big score before he gets out of the game for good.
The Huskies could take that path. They know exactly what they’ll get from it, they’ll be in the same spot in four years, and they’ll probably make the same move again. There are very few traditional options that a school like this has left to try, though. Eventually, the timer will run up and UConn will be fully left behind. Hiring someone that’s gone 8-4 in the FCS for a decade will keep you from truly hitting the bottom, in that you’ll likely win about two or three games a year, but nothing will change with that kind of move – it just continues the death march.
Herein lies an opportunity for UConn football, and for athletic director David Benedict. It’s time to break away from the traditional options, from the tried and true methods, from the pool of coaches willing to take a job that they know they can’t turn around. David, it’s time to hire a coach with no idea of what he’s truly getting into, no sense of self-preservation, no interest in just cashing a paycheck and a true, earnest belief that UConn football can be good, even in the extremely dire circumstances it currently finds itself surrounded by.
It’s time to hire me.
I have no coaching experience, nor do I have any experience of any sort within an athletic program beyond two years of middle school football as a backup offensive lineman. I don’t know anything about running a football program, I don’t know any assistants and I really only loosely know about the kind of things that a coach does on a daily basis.
I’m completely unqualified, the kind of person that you would not only laugh out of your office but whom you may also call security on, to really get your point across. My knowledge of football comes entirely from watching it, first as a fan growing up and now as a member of the media, two groups that you absolutely despise. Hiring me would be an utterly insane decision, one that would likely get you fired on the spot if you hadn’t saved UConn basketball by working it back into the Big East just a few years back.
But, unlike all of those FCS coaches, the P5 assistants looking to climb the ladder to better jobs, former P5 and G5 head coaching washouts or anyone else that you could realistically hire for this position, I can offer my complete and full belief in the potential of UConn football. I have no interest in ever jumping to a larger coaching job, no plans to abandon ship after a 10-point loss to Holy Cross, like someone that won’t be named, and the kind of unearned confidence that only someone with no idea of what they’re getting themselves into could possibly have.
After watching what Edsall put together in the past few years, and what Bob Diaco did before him, it couldn’t be more obvious that more than anything else, UConn is in desperate need of a coach who doesn’t absolutely fucking hate UConn. Any coach you hire will immediately hate UConn because of the situation you’ll be putting him into. You know this, I know this, and those poor suckers sure know it. Hire a coach that believes in something, even if that belief is founded entirely around the blissful confidence of being entirely unqualified for a job far too important for you.
Sold? I thought so. Here’s my plan to fix UConn football.
This is going to be tricky, given my status as a regular-ass guy with no coaching experience, but I’m confident that we can find 10 people who would like to be FBS assistant coaches, especially because I’m willing to take significantly under the amount of money you would have to pay any actual head coach. I’m talking $50,000 a year. That leaves us with a legitimately strong pool for assistant hires, which is good because these guys will be doing the vast, vast majority of the work. I’m pretty much just here to keep the morale up and set the tone.
Firstly, we’re looking for young guys. High school coaches from the New England area, FCS up-and-comers, former players. I want coaches with energy, coaches that are hungry to advance their careers, and coaches that can get out on the recruiting trail with a frequency that many will be calling “insanely, unthinkably illegal.”
For eight staffers, I have no real interest in ideology. Coaches that align with what we’re looking to build would be nice, but these guys will be getting paid well enough to learn something new, and my primary goal right now is finding coaches with the energy to recruiting and player development.
For the last two, that’s where the [Zizek sniff] Pure Ideology comes in. I want Coastal Carolina offensive line coach Bill Durkin as my offensive coordinator. He’s coached just about every position on the offensive side of the ball within that program, he knows the offense, and he played at UMass. He will not come cheap, but with a head coach making a college football writer salary and eight staffers hired primarily for their energy rather than their experience, I think we can make him the kind of offer that smaller schools just do not make.
Defensively, I want Dartmouth secondary coach and special teams coordinator Sammy McCorkle. McCorkle has been at Dartmouth for 17 years, but came to the Ivy by way of the south, and serves as Dartmouth’s recruiter in both Florida and Georgia. This will be important later, but for right now, I like him for his scheme. That Dartmouth defense is excellent, and I want it.
If my hires weren’t obvious enough, I’ll just lay it out there. We’re running a spread triple on offense, and the cover 2 out of the 4-2-5 on defense. I don’t think that UConn will be able to recruit the talent to build a truly explosive passing offense, nor can it thrive with an extremely aggressive defense, so we’re going all in, instead, on efficient and consistent success, on both sides of the ball. Grind out long drives with lots of option looks, force other teams to beat you down the field by taking away the run and by limiting the kind of RPOs that just about every offense is leaning on right now.
A lot of those scheme choices come from this part of the plan, the lifeblood of every program. I’m going to shoot straight here. It’s never going to be good. The recruiting just cannot pick up here in the way that you’d need it to, if you were hoping to run anything resembling a standard system on either side of the ball. Maybe down the road, after some success, but in the early years, we have just a few main interests on the trail, and none of them involve star chasing.
First things first, we’re going into the south to pluck players that fit our schemes. Edsall’s best seasons at UConn saw the Huskies pulling more from Florida than they did from Connecticut, and I’m going to pull from that. I want option quarterbacks, slow safeties that can hit, undersized linebackers and corners, tweener linemen on both sides of the ball, anything that the Sunshine state has that the big teams around it don’t want.
Unlike a lot of the schools that try to go into Florida, we aren’t taking personality question kids, we’re taking skillset question kids. I’m talking 5-11 offensive tackles. Running backs that are knee high to a frog. Nearsighted quarterbacks. I wanted the state’s most productive weirdos, guys that wouldn’t get play at the FBS or even the DI level elsewhere because they don’t look like FBS or DI players.
We can reach on a few true stars a class, but we do that up north, where we’re looking to reestablish UConn as a legitimate football brand, rather than just a laughing stock. Down south, where we’ll pull most of our players, I want McCorkle and as many staffers as he needs scouring the area, finding the high school players that are loved by their coaches, but not by anyone else with scholarships to offer.
Up north, the rest of the staff is focused on selling UConn’s schemes, UConn’s culture, proximity to home, and working as hard as it can to outwork everybody else in the northeast, and becoming the college that every local high school coach knows he can come to for anything from schematic advice to player placement.
Dave, buddy, I know this is a big leap, and a lot to ask from an athletic director. Hiring a 21-year-old sports writer as the head coach of your college football team isn’t an opportunity that comes around very often, but I know that you see the vision here, just as well as I do. UConn football can be something, but it’s not going to happen with any of these schmucks that I see rolling around on potential coaching lists for this job. Joe Moorhead isn’t built for this. Rhett Lashlee isn’t built for this. If you even say the name “Joe Harasymiak” to me I swear to God I’ll punch you in the throat.
I can do this. I can win at UConn. Make the call.