It’s time for UConn and Ray Reid to part ways.
Before the start of conference play, I stated that if the team fell short of winning the American Athletic Conference championship and missed the NCAA tournament, the university should consider letting go of Reid.
A few days removed from a controversial and disappointing AAC tournament exit, the point still stands. The team started out conference play strong—they went 6-1, losing only to No. 1 Maryland during a seven-game stretch.
Then, the collapse began. It started with a 3-2 overtime loss to Boston College, where UConn held a 2-0 advantage through the 78th minute before giving up three straight goals. The team then suffered a 3-2 loss to UCF to a sold-out crowd at Morrone.
Then, the dagger: A 2-1 loss to a 4-7-4 Memphis team on Senior Day. It basically put the nail in the coffin; UConn had not lost a conference game at that point and was in the running to capture the American regular season title and host the tournament in Storrs.
For now, the university still stands by Reid.
"We are proud of the accomplishments of the UConn men's soccer program under Coach Reid's leadership and are excited about his plans for the future," said Beth Goetz, the athletic department’s chief operating officer.
But others don’t feel the same. For some, it was the fact that they only won two games out of their first six, including blown leads and ugly losses like the Iona game. For others, it was that Memphis match, a game in which the Huskies had an early 1-0 lead, where unwavering support for Coach Reid was lost.
Fans are frustrated after an embarrassing and painful season. It’s the first time a team coached by Reid finished at .500 and the second year the team has missed the NCAA tournament.
UConn would close out the regular season with a loss to SMU, the soon-to-be conference champions, officially slowing down the momentum heading in to the conference tournament. During that stretch, they beat Yale 2-0, but at that point in the season, a nonconference game meant nothing.
They lost 1-0 in the conference semifinals and, even though they got robbed of a goal that would have tied the game with 40 seconds to go in regulation, they were dominated throughout that game by UCF.
This is the second straight year in which UConn has collapsed down the stretch—they went 1-3-1 to close out the 2016 season before losing 2-0 to Tulsa in the first round of the conference tournament. Last year, the team got off to a strong start before going 3-3-1 in conference play. This year, the team got off to a slow start, but were undefeated in conference play for some time before losing four of their last five games.
Some students have yet to see the team play in an NCAA tournament game. Some haven’t even seen them win a conference tournament game. They feel like they’re missing out on something amazing, and they are.
In 2015, when the team hosted Boston University in the first round of the NCAA tournament, I skipped class to watch them destroy BU 3-1. It was easily one of the most fun UConn soccer games I have ever been to. The Huskies were selected into the tournament that year despite their RPI ranking suggesting that at least a half dozen teams deserved to get in over UConn.
Their RPI was No. 35 in 2015, and it has only gone down since. They were No. 44 in RPI in 2016 and ended the 2017 season at No. 90 despite being ranked No. 24 to start the season and No. 26 midway through October. Since the NCAA started tracking RPI in 2005, UConn has only been outside of the top 50 in RPI twice, with this season being the worst (they finished at No. 63 in 2014).
In 2015, the team was even awarded home field advantage in the NCAA tournament because they knew fans would show up. Therein lies the biggest disappointment. UConn soccer has one of the most loyal fanbases out there—they’ve averaged some of the best attendance numbers in the country for over a decade, and they were No. 1 in total attendance and No. 2 in average attendance this season. Fans stuck around ever since the national championship in 2000 and the three straight Elite Eight appearances from 2011-2013.
These end-of-season collapses cannot continue to happen. The decline in RPI cannot continue to happen. Nobody can deny how much talent UConn has had and nobody can deny the success that Reid brought to the program after the departure of Joe Morrone.
But by the same token, you can’t ignore the decline in quality of the program over the last few years, either. The expectation should always be making the NCAA tournament. UConn soccer has a long, proud history of success with loyal, dedicated students and fans who come been coming out to support the team no matter what.
Just like the university had to part ways with Morrone at the end of his career, they must consider doing the same with Reid.
Stephanie Sheehan is the managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com. She tweets @steph_sheehan.