Like a mother grizzly bear fighting for her cubs, UConn football head coach Randy Edsall stood at a podium in the Burton Family Football Complex on Tuesday morning and defended his players and the state of his program to the press.
“Everyone wants to sprinkle the fairy dust or put it in the microwave and hit five seconds,” said Edsall. “And that ain’t what it’s about in my book. And if people don’t like it, tough shit.”
UConn is fresh off a 22-17 loss to UMass on a wet, rainy and windy Saturday. Despite leading 17-9 with less than 13 minutes to play, UConn’s defense surrendered two fourth-quarter touchdowns and quarterback David Pindell threw an interception to UMass defensive back Lee Moses that all but handed the victory to the already-celebrating Minutemen. The loss dropped UConn to a paltry 1-7 on the season. Their lone victory has come over the only non-FBS opponent of the season so far.
It was a bleak and miserable loss in bleak and miserable conditions, in the midst of a bleak and miserable season. Despite the outcome, Edsall put on a brave face on Tuesday.
“I couldn’t care how many we win or lose,” said Edsall. “Because if we don’t get the program right, or we don’t get the culture established, you’re never going to be a consistent winner anyhow.”
Edsall, like everyone watching at home, knows that UConn football isn’t a legitimate contender this year and won’t be next year or likely the year after that. Instead it appears he is focused on what he sees as other parts of the job description: making this program full of better players and better men.
“My whole focus is developing a program here. Yeah, we study the opponent, we look over matchups we think are important, but we’ve got to develop a program first, ” said Edsall. “If you don’t ever establish a program and establish doing things the right way, and for these kids to know how to do things the right way, yeah you might have a year that’s decent and other years that aren’t very good.”
Edsall had previously served as UConn’s head coach from 1999 to 2011. He said that a former player had texted him over the weekend, essentially telling him to stay the course.
“He just said ‘Coach, think back. That’s exactly how it was my first two years here and then we had leaders. And then we took off after there because everyone knows what the culture is,’” Edsall said.
According to Edsall, one part of his job description that the press doesn’t understand is that he has a responsibility to help his student-athletes develop both on and off the field.
“It’s about helping these kids to become the best person, the best student, that they can be so they can go on in life and be successful,” said Edsall.
One of those players that could stand for some growth and maturity is backup quarterback Marvin Washington. The redshirt freshman was previously left behind during the team’s road trip to USF. Although Edsall did not originally disclose the reason, he has since implied that it was due to missing a team meeting. Similarly, Edsall didn’t say what Washington’s infraction was this time.
“It has nothing to do with anything other than he can’t be held accountable to do the things that he’s supposed to do,” said Edsall. “Hopefully Marvin gets it…. I could care less if we win or lose. If we don’t get this thing established and these kids don’t understand that, where are they going in life? They’re not going anywhere.”
With all the discussion of the future, responsibility and development, it would be easy to forget that UConn does have a game to play this weekend. The Huskies will head west this Saturday for a 7 p.m. matchup at Tulsa. With the program seemingly fixed on the future, the players that won’t be back next season seem to be focused on self-improvement with the hope of setting an example.
“For me, the whole season is just for me to get better in areas that I felt coming into the season I wasn’t as good,” said senior wide receiver Hergy Mayala. “I’m just playing to get better and maybe give something to the younger guys.”
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.