EAST HARTFORD – “Welcome home!” fans shouted as new UConn head football coach Randy Edsall took to the stage in his introductory press conference, free to both the public and media, at Pratt and Whitney Stadium.
“Over the past nine months since arriving at UConn, based on constant evaluation, hundreds of conversations and a ton of research, I had formed an opinion of what type of leader we needed for the football program if and when it came that time,” UConn athletic director David Benedict said in his opening statement.
“My conclusion was we need an experienced head coach that has successfully rebuilt a program,” Benedict continued. “We need a coach that can mold, develop, and instill a confidence in young men to make them believe they can achieve the impossible. We need a coach that has integrity and run our program in a way that we can all be proud. And most importantly, we need a coach that can and will win. Randy Edsall is that coach.”
Edsall was the most successful football coach in UConn history prior to leaving his post in Storrs in the middle of the night for Maryland just hours after losing to Oklahoma in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, but returned to his old stomping grounds at Rentschler Field today in hopes of earning back the trust of the Husky faithful and bring UConn back to football relevance.
“Almost six years ago, I made one of the worst decisions in terms of how I left the University of Connecticut,” Edsall said. “That is something that I have to live with, and I’ve lived with. I’m not perfect. Everybody makes a mistake. I regret it. I just hope that I will be able to earn the trust back from all the wonderful fans because what I’m doing now is I apologize for how I left. It was wrong, I take full ownership and accountability for that. And now we’re going to move forward together to grow this program.”
After a nearly five-year stint with the Terrapins, Edsall took a year off from college football and worked as director of football research-special projects for the Detroit Lions in the NFL. There, he had a prominent role in scouting opposing team and scouting potential talent to fill the roster. However, when Benedict came calling, Edsall couldn’t refuse a return to where he made his name.
”I know this [of potentially becoming a head coach again], if I do it’s only going to be at one place, one place where I’d ever do it again,” said Edsall. “It was Connecticut, I’d go to Connecticut again. I’m fortunate that this opportunity presented itself.”
Edsall discussed memories of former players, including interacting with Jordan Todman, Darius Butler, and Sio Moore in the Lions’ matchup with the Indianapolis Colts, and with Byron Jones in a matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. He especially got emotional discussing his drive around the stadium and seeing the Jasper Howard Memorial statue, honoring the late UConn cornerback.
“It’s those emotions and those relationships that drive you as a coach,” Edsall said in his closing statement. “To see all these guys that played for me over here. That’s what it’s all about. I didn’t want to get emotional today but this is what Connecticut’s all about and this is what Connecticut has meant to me. Thank you for having me back, and God bless you all.”
Edsall also spoke with a great deal of optimism regarding the future of UConn football. The most important thing that he stressed was that the whole program, the university, and the fans need to work together in supporting and bringing about success for the football team on and off the field.
“Together we can make sure we get this place 40,000 strong, and putting banners up, playing and winning because, again, that’s what UConn is all about,” Edsall said. “It’s about winning in the classroom. It’s about winning on the field. And it’s about winning in life for these young men once they leave here.”
Benedict shared Edsall’s sentiment, and emphasized the importance of the whole fan base and program working together to help UConn football reach new heights, and hopefully once again reach the New Year’s Six bowls, and perhaps the College Football Playoff.
“My decision to offer the job to Randy was an unemotional one, based on what I believe is in the best interest of our student-athletes, our fans, our reputation, and our desire to be competitive again,” Benedict said. “UConn Nation, let’s set the past aside, and start pulling the rope in the same direction. If we do, together we can and we will be successful once again.”
Edsall’s contract will officially go into effect on January 3, 2017, one day after former head coach Bob Diaco’s contract is terminated. To view photos of the contract, click here.