Maryland’s Randy Edsall reflects on Connecticut tenure, expects boos this weekend

September 10, 2013

(Doug Kapustin for The Washington Post)

Randy Edsall’s voice cracked as he talked to reporters on Sept. 15, 2012. His current football team — Maryland — had just lost to his old football team — Connecticut — by three points. Edsall reflected on his tenure as the Huskies’ coach, which ended with an abrupt departure the current Maryland coach has since grown to regret. That Saturday, he had seen his former players again, and the memories came flooding back.

“I have emotions,” Edsall said then. “I don’t think you are human if you don’t have emotions. It was good to see some of the guys and to wish them well.”

The Terrapins travel to Connecticut this weekend, Edsall’s first game in the state since leaving for College Park in 2011, and on Tuesday he reflected in similar fasion. He hit all the talking points that surfaced last season around this time, thanking the Huskies’ administrators for taking a chance on a coach with just one year of coordinator experience and the fans for their support. He remembered last season’s loss, and when the teams convened at midfield for postgame handshakes. He was, again, asked whether he became emotional and, again, insisted that his feelings were human nature.

“It was probably at the end of the game,” Edsall said. “I don’t know if you’re human if you don’t have emotions when you get involved in games. We’re just looking forward to preparing and getting up there, trying to get that first win on the road.”

Edsall still fondly remembers his 12 seasons at Connecticut. He hopes Maryland will beat the Huskies on Saturday night, just as the Terps took down Florida International and Old Dominion in the season’s first two games. Except this is Maryland’s first road game of a still-young season, and this road trip takes Edsall into personally hostile territory.

“Anytime you go on the road, they’re going to boo you,” Edsall said. “They’re not going to like you. I wouldn’t expect anything different. I’m sure there will be some people, my golfing buddies, that may cheer for us. As we go up there, the focus has to be on us. We have to prepare, watch them on film, and find out what their strengths and weaknesses are and know them inside and out, then go and play the game the way we’re capable of playing.

“That’s basically what I told them. I told them it’s a loud stadium, but the thing we need to do is go up there, see if we can take the crowd out of the game. That’s just us preparing, that’s us going out and everyone needs to do their job, and if we do that we’ll give ourselves a great opportunity to win.”

Edsall’s reception should be decidedly negative. Many still harbor resentment over his departure, when Edsall informed his players via text message after their loss in the Fiesta Bowl that he had accepted the job in College Park. But Connecticut might have bigger problems these days. A season-opening loss to Towson, a Football Championship Subdivision team, may have diverted the hatred away from the former regime and onto the current one.

“The Huskies could very likely go 8-4 still,” wrote Tim Fontenault, columnist for the Connecticut student newspaper. “They could also go 2-10. But right now, it seems like based on the team’s recent performance and the reaction of fans to two straight 5-7 seasons and a loss to Towson, Randy Edsall’s return may not be the deafening ring of boos that have been anticipated and talked about for so long. He may not even be the most unappreciated coach in the building on Saturday.”

Perhaps last season’s loss in College Park was a blessing in disguise for Edsall. The Huskies got their cathartic victory out of the way and thus tamped down the stakes for this season’s game. Rather than his first meeting with Connecticut occur in hostile territory, Edsall at least had the emotional buffer of Byrd Stadium.

“I guess you could say that,” Edsall said. “I think I’m pretty good at being able to put things behind.”

Can Edsall reasonably expect Connecticut fans do the same?

“The memories I have of Connecticut and Rentschler Field and support is nothing but great memories,” he said. “You have to put that behind you, but the focus and the attention needs to be placed on preparing this week and going to playing the best game we can in a hostile environment.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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