Randy Edsall returning as UConn football coach

© Jerry Lai, USA TODAY Sports
Randy Edsall spent 12 seasons as Connecticut football coach and built that program into one of the best on the east coast. Now, the Detroit Lions assistant coach is headed back to his previous job.
The school announced the hiring of Edsall on Wednesday. He replaces Bob Diaco, who was fired two days ago after just 11 wins in three seasons with the program. A press conference is scheduled for later Wednesday.

"We are excited to welcome coach Edsall back the University of Connecticut," school president Susan Herbst said in a statement. "He possess the passion, experience and commitment to lead our program and develop our student-athletes, both on and off the field.

At UConn, Edsall went 74-70, led the program to five bowl appearances and helped oversee its transition to FBS football. Edsall left UConn for Maryland after the 2010 seson in a less-than-amicable departure following the school's appearance in Fiesta Bowl, but remains the school's all-time winningest football coach.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell confirmed earlier in the day Edsall was a top candidate for the job.

"I can only say that I think that’s correct, he is a strong candidate for that job, and I’m hoping everything works out for him because it’d certainly be great for him," Caldwell said.

Edsall is in his first season as the Lions' director of football research and special projects, a mysterious position that helps with clock management issues and other projects that Caldwell has never been fully explained.

He's close with Lions general manager Bob Quinn, considered Quinn a confidant when the latter worked as an equipment assistant at UConn, and helped push Quinn to his first NFL job with the New England Patriots.

Caldwell said Edsall's candidacy for the current UConn opening shouldn't impact the Lions. Last year, the Lions lost assistant offensive line coach Ryan Silverfield to Memphis, where he took an assistant coaching job, during the season.

"Just in terms of the overall, how we deal with it, we’ve certainly been there before so we’ve had some experience with guys that have taken college jobs in particular and then had to balance those things out between work here and there," Caldwell said. "So it kind of depends on each situation is a little bit different."


UConn brings back Randy Edsall as head coach

Connecticut moved quickly to replace Bob Diaco. It is bringing back a familiar face, too.

The school announced Wednesday it is bringing in Randy Edsall — yes, that Randy Edsall — as head coach. Edsall, who currently serves as the director of football research for the Detroit Lions, was UConn’s head coach from 1999-2010 until he left for the head-coaching job at Maryland.

He will be formally introduced as head coach on Friday at 11 a.m. ET, the school said.

“We are excited to welcome Coach Edsall back to the University of Connecticut,” said UConn president Susan Herbst. “He possesses the passion, experience and commitment to lead our program and develop our student-athletes, both on and off the field.

“Coach Edsall is the right fit for our university, football program and student-athletes,” said Benedict. “He led UConn to its most successful period in the history of our football program, and I believe he will provide consistent leadership and long-term success once again.”

The news comes just two days after the school announced it was moving on from Diaco, effective Jan. 2. Diaco, the former Notre Dame defensive coordinator, went 11-29 in three seasons with the program. The Huskies finished 3-9 this season after going 6-7 and reaching a bowl in 2015.

Edsall guided UConn’s transition from the FCS (then I-AA) level to the FBS when he was hired back in December 1998. He coached the team in its final FCS season and four years as an independent before the Huskies joined the Big East in 2004. UConn won two Big East titles (2007 and 2010) and played in five bowl games under Edsall’s watch.

“It is an honor to have the opportunity to rejoin and lead the UConn program,” Edsall said. “I want to thank President Herbst, Athletic Director David Benedict and the rest of the administration for believing I am the right person to build this program and develop its student-athletes. I look forward to working with David, our student-athletes and the entire athletic department.”

Most notably, the Huskies appeared in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma. After the game, a 48-20 loss, Edsall controversially bolted for Maryland without speaking with his players.

“Certainly as I look back on it, I wish I had done things differently in that instance,” Edsall said. “I completely understand and respect that there are loyal fans, supporters and former players that still have not forgotten and it will take time to forgive. I have many incredible memories of my time at UConn and I hope the fans do too. It is my goal to get us back to that level of success and I hope that all of the Husky fans out there will be along for the ride.”

Overall at UConn, Edsall had a 74-70 record.

Edsall led Maryland to bowl games in 2013 and 2014, but he was fired midway through the 2015 season. He had just a 22-34 record with the Terps.


Randy Edsall Back At UConn: Coach Says He Should Have Done Things Differently When He Left

Randy Edsall's first stint as UConn coach began completely off the radar of major college football, when film was broken down in trailers aligned across sandy parking lots near the old Memorial Stadium.

It ended under the bright lights of the national stage, New Year's Day 2011, with the Huskies facing Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

Former athletic director Lew Perkins' ambitious decision to upgrade the program to what is now the FBS level, and to hire Edsall in 1998, paid off with a quick ascension to regional respectability. And a 12-year journey under Edsall lifted the Huskies into the sport's rarefied air.

Then, poof, Edsall was gone, into the desert night, on his way to being named Maryland coach before anyone in Connecticut could wrap their mind around a departure and a transition. Celebration became resentment.

So as Edsall, whose return was announced Wednesday, made his first public comments after earning the rare opportunity to coach a program for a second time, he laid the groundwork for the future by addressing that divisive part of his past.

"Certainly as I look back on it, I wish I had done things differently in that instance," Edsall said in a statement. "I completely understand and respect that there are loyal fans, supporters and former players that still have not forgotten and it will take time to forgive. I have many incredible memories of my time at UConn and I hope the fans do too. It is my goal to get us back to that level of success and I hope that all of the Husky fans out there will be along for the ride."

A press conference, open to the public with free admission, will re-introduce Edsall on Friday at 11 a.m. at Rentschler Field, which opened in 2003 with Edsall and the Huskies defeating Indiana.

The next season, UConn's debut in the now-defunct Big East, brought the team's first bowl game. And by the time Edsall left, the Huskies were coming off four consecutive winning seasons and bowl appearances. At 74-70, he is the program's all-time leader in victories, and he coached UConn to Big East championships in 2007 and 2010.

There is a romantic notion to all of this. There are thoughts of Dan Orlovsky and Terry Caulley and Scott Lutrus and Alfred Fincher. But athletic director David Benedict's decision, like Edsall himself, was all business.

"Coach Edsall is the right fit for our university, football program and student-athletes," Benedict said in a statement. "I believe he will provide consistent leadership and long-term success once again."

There is a lot of work to be done around the Burton Family Football Complex. The Huskies have had six consecutive losing seasons since Edsall left and are coming off a disastrous 2016 campaign. UConn lost its last six games, the final four by a ridiculous margin of 130-16, and statewide interest seemingly dipped to levels experienced only in the old Division I-AA days.

Edsall was replaced before the 2011 season by Paul Pasqualoni, who was fired four games into 2013 with a 10-18 record. And he now replaces Bob Diaco, fired Monday, who was 11-26 in three seasons.

Diaco, owed a $3.4 million buyout, is officially on the job until next Monday. Edsall has agreed to a five-year deal at an annual guaranteed salary of $1 million, with performance and achievement incentives. Buyouts for both UConn and Edsall will begin at $3 million and decrease by $1 million each year, with no buyout clause after the third year.

"We are excited to welcome Coach Edsall back to the University of Connecticut," UConn President Susan Herbst said in a statement. "He possesses the passion, experience and commitment to lead our program and develop our student-athletes, both on and off the field."

Edsall lasted four-plus seasons at Maryland, where he was 22-34. He led the Terps to consecutive bowl appearances in 2013-14, both losses, but was fired after losing four of six games in 2015. His best AAC finish at Maryland was third place and a 4-4 record in 2014.

For the past year, Edsall has been the director of football research for the NFL's Detroit Lions.

Benedict said he was looking for a program builder and that's exactly what Edsall was known for before leaving Storrs. Originally from Glen Rock, Pa., he presided over what was, all in all, a terrific tenure in 1999-2010. His teams were tough and disciplined and almost always competitive.

One of Edsall's most significant achievements came off the field as the spokesman for a program and the social leader for a team dealing with the October 2009 death of player Jasper Howard. A few weeks later, with their slain teammate's jersey in tow, the Huskies went to South Bend, Ind., and defeated Notre Dame for perhaps the signature victory of the Edsall era.

News of his hiring went over well with many former players.

"Haven't been this excited about UConn football since running out of the tunnel in the Fiesta Bowl," Lutrus, a linebacker from Brookfield who was a four-year starter, posted on Facebook.

"Now THAT is some news to come out of a meeting to!" Orlovsky, of Shelton and still in the NFL with the Lions, wrote on Twitter. "FIRED UP for @RandyEdsall and @UConnFootball I feel I know Coach Edsall as good as … anyone as a coach and a man, and what the state, the kids and the administration are getting is absolute top notch. Can't wait #TheComeback … I'm legit so fired up about this!!! #UConnFootball."

Edsall's first job is to assemble a staff and that work has surely already begun. His second is to recruit. The dark period for recruiting travel ends Jan. 11. Fourteen players have made oral commitments to UConn under the previous staff. Edsall must decide which players still fit, and add roughly a dozen more.

Edsall, a Syracuse grad, has 36 years of coaching experience in college and the NFL. He and his wife, Eileen, have two children. The family lived in Glastonbury during his first stint as UConn coach.

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