HEISER: Tumultuous start for Edsall in return to UConn

Steve Heiser, 505-5446/@ydsports
  • Randy Edsall was re-hired as UConn's head football coach on Dec. 28.
  • The Susquehannock High grad previously coached the Huskies from 1999 until 2011.
  • Since his return, Edsall has experienced a number of ups and downs in Storrs.

Susquehannock High School graduate Randy Edsall returned as the head football coach at UConn less than three weeks ago.

To call the intervening time period “eventful” would be a classic understatement. “Tumultuous” might be a better word.

New UConn head football coach Randy Edsall talks with fan Milton Porter of Hebron, Connecticut, left, after a news conference to announce his return as coach at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field on Friday, Dec. 30. Edsall is a Susquehannock High School graduate.

In fact, hardly a day has gone by without the new Edsall Era in Storrs creating a new attention-grabbing headline — some good, some bad and some just intriguing.

Obviously, it started out on a very good note when Edsall got back into the major college coaching ranks.

A disappointing stint in his “dream job” at Maryland ended with his firing in midseason in 2015. After a year in the football witness protection program as the Detroit Lions' “director of football research — special projects,” Edsall reemerged on Dec. 28 when the Huskies announced they had hired him back to again lead their program.

Edsall, 58, was returning to the place where he made his coaching bones from 1999 through 2010, leading the Huskies from a Division I-AA program to two Big East titles and a major bowl bid. Since his departure, UConn struggled mightily to return to that level.

It seemed like a happy homecoming.

Apology: First, however, Edsall had to apologize, several times, for the way he left the Huskies.

After losing to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl following the 2010 season, Edsall left abruptly to become the Terps' coach. He did not address his UConn players before he left for Maryland and he did not fly home with the Huskies after the bowl.

He was justifiably criticized for his actions, but to his credit, he stood tall, said he was wrong and said he was sorry.

Edsall offers 'regret' about one of 'worst decisions'

For the most part, his apology seemed to be accepted. His former UConn players largely supported Edsall's return, even those on the Fiesta Bowl team that he “abandoned.”

Pay cut: Then came another interesting development when the Hartford Courant reported that Edsall will actually be making less at UConn now than when he left.

Edsall's incentive-laden five-year deal will feature a base salary of $1 million per year. When he left UConn in 2010 he was making $1.55 million. At Maryland, he reportedly made $2.1 million. His two successors at UConn, Paul Pasqualoni and Bob Diaco, made $1.7 million in the final years of their deals.

Coaching pay cuts in college football are rare, but Edsall, if he succeeds, will have the opportunity to make significantly more money.

Nepotism?: Edsall then started putting together his coaching staff.

One of his first hires immediately raised some eyebrows and could lead some to make charges of nepotism. Edsall picked his son, Corey, as his tight ends coach. Corey had spent the past two seasons as a graduate assistant at Colorado.

In Edsall's contract, there was a stipulation that Corey would be offered a job at UConn, but he would not report directly to Edsall.

Having fathers and sons on the same staff is nothing new. It happens all the time. Joe Paterno, for instance, had Jay Paterno on his staff for many years. Having a stipulation in your contract that your son must be offered a job does sound unusual, however.

Coaching coup: Then Edsall pulled off a bit of a coup when he lured 33-year-old Rhett Lashlee from Auburn to become his offensive coordinator with the Huskies.

Lashlee had the same job title with the War Eagles, but he still accepted a whopping $250,000 pay cut to come to UConn (going from $600,000 to $350,000).

The reason? Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is known for being “hands-on” about running his offense. At UConn, Lashlee is expected to run his own offensive show, which should increase his profile as a potential head coach in the future— if the Huskies' attack can excel. He's expected to run a fast-paced, spread offense similar to the one used by Auburn.

Giving recruit bad news: Finally, on Tuesday morning, Edsall found himself in the middle of another controversy when NJ.com published a story about Edsall pulling a scholarship offer from a recruit less than three weeks before National Letter of Intent Day.

The player in question, Ryan Dickens from Raritan High in New Jersey, is a two-star recruit who had accepted a scholarship offer from UConn's previous head coach, Diaco, seven months ago. After getting hired at UConn, Edsall reportedly told Dickens his scholarship was safe.

Then, according to the story, Edsall informed Dickens on Sunday night that UConn was going in going to go in "another direction. We don’t have a spot for you.“

The call came hours after Dickens was given a Mini-Max Award for his accomplishments in athletics, academics and community service.

New coaches withdrawing offers from the recruits of fired coaches is, again, nothing new. Edsall, however, came under withering criticism from NJ.com columnist Steve Politi, who wrote:

"The most recent entry on Edsall's Twitter page is, remarkably, a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: 'Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are we doing for others?' Well, Randy, we have your answer: Screwing them over."

So there you have it — a brief recap of Randy Edsall's tumultuous first three weeks in his return to UConn.

It makes you wonder what the Susquehannock High grad may have to deal with in the weeks, months and years to come in Storrs.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.