Hope, change and excitement are the words dejour of the week for UConn as it plays USF.
There's something about a coaching change that gives hope and excitement.
No one wants to fire a football coach in season. It sends a terrible message and is a terrible thing for a program, especially one in UConn's predicament.
The long-term ramifications of the early ouster of Paul Pasqualoni this season will be a challenge for the school. Director of Athletics Warde Manuel thought long and hard about it when he made the decision after four games to fire Paul Pasqualoni. The candidate pool could be poisoned by the move as the coaching profession behaves more like a fraternity with many coaches friends intermingling on different staffs. Try playing Six Degrees of George DeLeone and you get from John Heisman to Lane Kiffin. The ridicule of a national media and the instability it brings about make the next coaches job more difficult because of this.
Manuel weighed those ramifications and made the move anyways.
Because something needed to be done.
"I can not necessarily can read the tea leaves and crystal ball how it will affect the future," Manuel said. "All I know is I have 100 plus kids and 20 something staff in football that I care deeply about now....It is something that had to be done. It's not my M.O. (modus operandi), and not what I want to be known for."
The team needed a jolt, the fanbase needed a jolt and there had to be some kind of energy and excitement for the football program. UConn doesn't want its game against Michigan to be the apex of its season. It wants it to be one of many highlights.
Manuel said on the day he fired Pasqualoni that he wasn't throwing in the towel on the season.
Quite the contrary, it seems to have brought the season to life.
UConn, 0-4, hosts South Florida (1-4, 1-0) Saturday afternoon in a noon game on SNY. Normally, a game of these two teams of this record would draw a blip on the radar. The Huskies' fateful would assuredly go to the game, but the fair-weather fan would be hard pressed to get worked up over it.
Now, in lieu of victories, there is intrigue. T.J. Weist takes over as the interim head coach with his deep raspy voice and non-stop energy. Is there anything more dangerous/fun than an offensive coordinator without a head coach? Huskies have nothing to lose, let the playbook go.
There is Tim Boyle, the crown jewel of the recruiting class that has played the part of State U savior this week (The Savior from Xavier?) and has talked so much about the impact that UConn had on his football career it's hard to believe he was ever committed to Boston College.
Boyle remembers a very important game in UConn history, its win over a ranked USF team in 2007. While the USF ranking and the veracity of the win hasn't stood the test of time (like last year's Louisville win will) but at the moment it was big. Boyle, and many others, rushed the field in celebration. It was the first field rush in Rentschler Field history and created more excitement than even the BCS bid. Boyle was on the field that day and lost his father in the crowd.
He starts against USF today and there are visions of Dan Orlovsky II dancing in UConn fans' minds.
There is hope in the run game as beloved offensive line coach MIke Foley returns to the job. Perhaps a different voice and a get back to the basics approach will inject some intensity and strength into a line. It wasn't that long ago that the Huskies blocked for two All-American running backs and a two-back 1,000 yard attack in a three season span.
The Huskies have challenges coming in but this is going to be a fresh start on Saturday. The 0-4 and 10-18 albatross of the Pasqualoni can be off-loaded to the old coach. Sure, the players are a big part of the record, but the coaching change takes the pressure off. There won't be calls for a coaching change, players worried about what is going to happen, and pressure from coaches trying to squeeze everything they can out of a game to satisfy the fans and administration.
That's gone against South Florida. It's about time for the Huskies to just play some football.
It's a fresh start, and wherever the Huskies end up going, it's the first step towards getting there.
It begins Saturday.