Stratton’s Column: UConn Football should hire Presbyterian Head Coach Kevin Kelley

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Presbyterian head coach Kevin Kelley coaches his team against St. Andrews during a college football game, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, at Bailey Memorial Stadium in Clinton, S.C. (Sam Wolfe/The State via AP)

This doesn’t need to be stated anymore, but I’ll do it anyway for good time’s sake: The University of Connecticut is not good at football. There, I said it. 

Thankfully though, I’m not going to write this article complaining or moping about UConn’s deficiencies. That’s been done too much by our angelic football beat writers who have the misfortune of covering this team. Instead, I have what I think is a solution to fix the team and bring the Huskies back to football prominence: bring in Presbyterian College Head Coach Kevin Kelley. 

Let’s start with Kelley’s coaching philosophy. Some call it unorthodox and a disgrace, but I call it genius. Kelley’s coaching is just about as aggressive as it gets, as he elects to always go for onside kicks, two-point conversions, fourth downs and to never punt. The coach applies this strategy based on statistics, claiming that it is the most efficient way to play football. 

Spoiler alert: he’s right. Kelley started as a head coach at Arkansas’ Pulaski Academy and saw positive results instantly with his strategy. He won an AAA state championship in his first year and added eight more in his next 16 years at Pulaski. This season, FCS Presbyterian took a chance on him, and the move has already paid off with the immense excitement Kelley has brought to the fanbase. 

The Blue Hoses (yes, that’s really their mascot) haven’t played great competition yet, but they did beat NAIA St. Andrews 84-43 and Division II Fort Lauderdale 68-3 with Kelley’s strategy. This is considerably better than UConn has been able to do against teams in divisions below them. It will certainly be intriguing to see what the team will do next weekend when they play at FCS Campbell, but until then, let’s work with these games they’ve already played. 

The thrill that Kelley has already brought to the school is insane. Everyone is talking about his unconventional strategy and, all of a sudden, Presbyterian has all these eyes on them that they never would have had before. A part of gaining national relevance is getting people who wouldn’t normally care about your school to tune in. Kelley has done just that. I am watching them now and I didn’t even know what a Blue Hose was a month ago. 

Now think about what would happen if he went to UConn. The Huskies have already inked a deal with CBS Sports Network for the near future, giving those interested a simple and already paid-for way to watch. No matter the time slot UConn would play in college football fans would view in awe, as the Huskies break the norms of FBS football. It would be a PR machine. 

Connecticut quarterback Jack Zergiotis drops back to pass against Fresno State during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Fresno, Calif., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)

It’s also important to consider the impact that the move would have on recruiting. Every offensive recruit roughly at UConn’s level would love to come to Storrs to put up videogame numbers. Once they start getting a steady stream of solid recruits, the on-field results would improve too, making recruiting substantially easier. Everything in this situation builds on itself, while simultaneously bringing excitement to the football team. Who knows, maybe we could even fill Rentschler Field up to the halfway marker, something the team has yet to achieve this decade. 

Another thing: what does UConn have to lose at this point? The Huskies have officially hit rock bottom and according to FBS, FCS and Sagarin CFB ratings, are one of the 35 worst Division I programs in the country. For our next hire, we might as well get the ball flying, go for it on fourth downs, and try to convert some onside kicks. If we are going to lose every game, let’s not do it by running the ball on third-and-9, a common tactic in this era of UConn football. Kelley is the coach we need to take the team to the next level, as he has the potential to improve recruiting, attendance and publicity. He would likely take the job in a heartbeat too, considering the huge contract he would receive. 

So, my message to Athletic Director David Benedict: We have nothing left to lose, so what do you say? Let’s make this happen and make the UConn football program one of the biggest turnaround stories in college football history. 

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