Randy Edsall hopped on a conference call with Connecticut football reporters Tuesday afternoon. It was short, maybe five minutes. He did the same last season before his first game against his former team, expressing regret over the abrupt way he left the program for Maryland.
Up in Huskies territory, fans have licked their chops for years over this matchup, ready to welcome the coach Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs regularly calls “The Great Deserter” with a storm of boos. But ever since Connecticut fell to FCS Towson in its season opener and spent the next week dwelling on the result, attention has shifted from Edsall to current Huskies coach Paul Pasqualoni.
“The arrival of Edsall, in some ways, has taken a back seat to the debate over Pasqualoni’s possible departure,” Jacobs wrote Tuesday. “If the Huskies lose to Maryland, how many of you have them beating Michigan? And if they’re 0-3, there’s no way that they finish with a winning record. If they don’t have a winning record, you can count on a coach not named Edsall or Pasqualoni in 2014. So, yes, a loss Saturday night could end up sealing Pasqualoni’s fate. Huge game.”
The Courant conducted a web poll asking fans whether they planned to boo Edsall. As of Wednesday morning, with 224 respondents, 32 percent said, “I’ll boo my head off.” Twenty-eight percent said they would cheer, for “his time here was good for UConn.” Forty percent said they would do neither.
That Jacobs piece sources two interesting perspectives on the proverbial Edsall Bowl II. The family of Tim Willman, a starting defensive end for the Huskies, lives a quarter-mile from Edsall in Maryland and sometimes runs into him at the grocery. Starting linebacker Ryan Donohue transferred from College Park to Connecticut when Edsall arrived, citing a philosophical disagreement and the need for a fresh start.
In the New Haven Register, Chip Malafronte reached the same conclusion. Booing Edsall would provide delicious revenge for Huskies fans, he writes, if it weren’t for the program’s current state.
It had the makings of a scene ripped straight from a WWE script. Hero turned villain returns to the soil of a fan base scorned. Only Edsall jogging from the visitor’s tunnel, head wrapped in black bandana and spray-on beard, would make this heel turn complete.
How quickly priorities change. UConn has bigger troubles, bub. Two weeks ago tiny Towson, the annual FCS sacrificial lamb, strolled into town and humiliated the Huskies.
Schadenfreude isn’t much fun when your own house is in disarray.
Fact is, Edsall may well receive a hero’s welcome while the home crowd reserves its Hollywood Hogan treatment for Paul Pasqualoni.
Like the Terrapins, Connecticut’s players are focusing on redemption. For Maryland, this means avenging last season’s 24-21 loss at home to the Huskies. For the host, this means moving past Towson.
“This isn’t about revenge or payback or having him receive his “just desserts” or anything else about Edsall. Love him or hate him, he did what he did and it’s done. Finished. This isn’t about Maryland, either, and what they can do on offense or defense or special teams.
“This is all about the UConn Huskies, plain and simple.”
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