Friday, October 26, 2012

UConn AD talks about current state of football program

These are tough times for the UConn football program. The Huskies are coming off a humbling 40-10 loss at Syracuse and also lost starting guard and team captain Adam Masters for the season.

The Huskies are sitting at 3-5 and have yet to play Big East powerhouses Louisville and Cincinnati. UConn is in danger of finishing without a Big East win for the first time in program history and a 3-9 final record is certainly not out of the question.

With all those factors being in play, I headed up to Rentschler Field on Thursday morning  because UConn director of athletics Warde Manuel was speaking at a press conference announcing UConn's partnership in a men's health initiative called "Man Up."

Following the press conference I spoke with him on a few different matters including his thoughts on the state of the UConn football program which I used for a story on the state of the program running in tomorrow's edition of the Register.

Here are his thoughts:

"We are struggling, we need to improve. I talked to Paul (Pasqualoni), I have been around the kids and they are working hard at it. They are not happy with where we are and it is not what they envisioned starting the season and it is not where we thought we’d go particularly when you look at where we were after the Maryland game and very close NC State game. We have to ability we just haven’t put it together for 60 minutes. The coaching staff needs to put them in the right position and when they are in the right position the student-athletes need to make the plays that they can make. We make them in one series and then in the next series we miss something or we do something that let them get a first down or lets them stop us from getting a first down.

"It is not for a lack of effort.  The one thing I look for in our teams is what is the effort? They haven’t given up, they haven’t quit, they are still playing hard. That is the expectation I have for them. We will improve. I was at practice last week and I will be at practice next week when they go back into their preparation and they are giving the effort, they are working at it. Our fans, I know they are frustrated, I am frustrated, Paul and the team is frustrated but stick with us, this team is working at it. The plan is to go to South Florida and make some adjustments and play harder, play smarter, play for 60 minutes and we will see what the outcome is. The plan is to win, we don’t plan on going in there to lose. We don’t accept losing and I am not a very good loser at all but we have to stick by the team, be there with them because we will keep fighting. I know many of our fans will."

Manuel was on the field before the Syracuse game talking to the UConn players and I was curious whether that was a sign that he was keeping closer tabs on the team for other reasons other than just being the AD. Manuel said that was not the case and that he has confidence in the current UConn staff (even if he was not the one who hired them).

"I have had many conversations, I have watched practice. We have a very experienced staff who is working hard to put them in the right position. I am sure they second guess themselves in the plays they call offensively or defensively and wish they could do it again and do it over. They are not trying to design a game plan to lose. They make mistakes at times in what they call and wish they could have thought differently and called something else but it is not for a lack of effort. I have faith in them that they will make the corrections they have to make, put the kids in position, coach them up."

Finally, I asked him if UConn were to lose the rest of its games to finish 3-9 would he make his presence felt in the offseason by making changes to the coaching staff. He did not directly address the possibility of firing coaches.

"I am making my presence felt. We could be 12-0 and I’d be making my presence felt. My presence is going to be felt because I want them to know I am supporting them. It is not for me win or tie, it is win, lose, tie and my presence will be there for our coaches."

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