At the beginning of this month there was hope for UConn athletics. The UConn football team had the opportunity to be bowl eligible by winning three of its next four games. Beating either South Florida or Central Florida would be tough, but not impossible. After all, these mid-major wonders are the teams that Randy Edsall squads would routinely beat in Edsall’s first tenure as football coach.
Instead, the Huskies were waxed by USF, 37-20, and were shredded by UCF, 49-24.
It was then thought that maybe UConn was simply looking ahead to the Boston College game at historic Fenway Park. If UConn couldn’t get into an actual bowl in December, they would make the Fenway game against Boston College their own Super Bowl.
Walking around Boston on game day, I saw dark blue UConn apparel everywhere. Mr. Dooley’s pub in downtown Boston was packed four hours before game time. You couldn’t move, and you had to fight through a sea of Jonathan-laden outfits just to get to the boys room.
Then it started to rain.
It was as if the rain scared away all the UConn “diehards” as well as the team’s chances of a respectable season.
Throughout the game, more prevalent than the Green Monster in left field was the thousands of red seats visible … absent of warm (or cold, rather) bodies.
Most people skipped the game and stayed at the bars. The suckers crammed underneath the Fenway overhangs to watch their team get pummeled by a Mediocre (with a capital ‘M’) Boston College team.
Now, UConn enablers will point to the fact that BC fans didn’t show up in the rain at Fenway either. My response to that is two-fold.
First, and most important – We are supposed to be better fans than the frauds at BC. Boston College athletics hasn’t mattered in Boston since friggin’ Tom Coughlin was the head coach of the football program in the early 1990s. Boston is a great pro sports town, but college sports simply don’t matter there.
Second, this “football at Fenway” stuff is old hat for BC and the casual Boston fan. BC football played Notre Dame at Fenway two years ago and they’ve been holding non-baseball sporting events there since the NHL Winter Classic in 2010. The bloom is well off that rose.
The Fenway game, technically a home game for UConn football, was supposed to be a grand display of all UConn sports and its rich history. Instead, the rain and the absolutely horrible play on the field from the Huskies ruined any chance for a Boston takeover.
The next week in UConn’s season finale, they came up with a brand new way to lose and embarrass their fans as a taunting penalty led to a missed extra point in a one-point loss to Cincinnati.
Overall, I believe the program is in better shape that it was a year ago under Bob Diaco (nowhere to go but up). My worry though is that Edsall can coast now that he’s in his second stint at the school. If Edsall somehow gets UConn football back to .500 and they stay a .500 team for the next five or six years – it’s a win for him. No pressure. The sad thing is that expectations are so low after the past few years that simply being as mediocre as Boston College will do. In fact, it will be celebrated.
Last winter I wrote a similar column to this, pounding the men’s basketball program. I truly could not believe the blowback I received from fellow alumni and current students simply from ripping a team that finished below .500 for the first time in 30 years.
The enablers said I was a complete idiot for trashing on a program that won a National Championship as recently as 2014, missing the point that I wanted sustained success for UConn. Winning a national title one year and then missing the NCAA tourney altogether the next three years is not a healthy way to live for a program.
I want teams in the top 10 of the rankings every year for a decade, because that type of sustained success resonates with recruits. Kids are watching Kansas games and Michigan State games. Those teams play in real conferences, are on national TV every other night, and make the tournament every single year.
The enablers will point out that Kansas hasn’t won a national title since 2008 and Michigan State hasn’t won one since 2000.
But the kids who are going to be the top recruits in two, three, four years know that Kansas and Michigan State are always in the mix. They are nationally relevant.
To these kids, the year 2014 might as well be 1914 to them. They only know and care about what they’ve most recently seen, and what they’ve most recently seen is a sub-.500 season out of UConn and a team that lost by 40 points to a mediocre Arkansas team this past weekend.
Now, it’s only November. And I’m still holding out hope that the UConn men can make this season worth watching. I’m hoping they can win the AAC regular season title (based on the expectations from just 10 years ago they should win it every single damn year), the AAC conference tournament, and get back into the real tournament come March.
But hope only goes so far. Reality says that this basketball season will finish up in the same way the football season did.