Randy Edsall steps down as UConn football coach, Lou Spanos to serve in interim role

by 24USATVSept. 7, 2021, 3 a.m. 24
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Randy Edsall has stepped down as UConn football coach, effective immediately, just one day after announcing he would retire at the end of the season.

Defensive coordinator Lou Spanos will serve as the Huskies’ interim coach for the remainder of the season.

“Randy Edsall and director of athletics David Benedict have come to the mutual decision that it is in the best interest of the UConn football program for Edsall to step aside immediately as head football coach,” UConn said in an announcement released Monday at 5:40 p.m.

Edsall will collect his full salary for this season — $1.256 million.

Benedict met with the team Monday at about 5:30 p.m. to announce Edsall’s departure. Spanos also addressed the team.

The Huskies are 0-2 with a 45-point loss at Fresno State and a 38-28 home loss Saturday to Holy Cross, of the lower level Football Championship Subdivision.

On Sunday, Edsall shared with administration his decision to retire, leading to Sunday’s announcement that he would remain with the team through its final 10 games. Ultimately, though, with the benefit of more time to analyze the situation, UConn decided that made no sense.

Edsall and Benedict spoke again Monday, resulting in Edsall’s immediate departure.

“Upon further reflection by both Randy and I, and after having the opportunity to visit with Randy, we are both in agreement that it is in the best interest of our student-athletes to have a new voice leading UConn football,” Benedict said.

Edsall, 63, finishes his second stint as UConn coach with a 6-32 record in three-plus seasons. He is 80-102 overall at the school, having led UConn’s transition into FBS football as coach in 1999-00, before leaving for Maryland after the Huskies’ Fiesta Bowl appearance on New Year’s Day 2011.

The rest of the coaching staff will remain for now. It is unclear who will serve as defensive coordinator for the rest of the season, which resumes Saturday at home against Purdue.

UConn will conduct a national search for its next head coach. Spanos is paid a salary of approximately $335,000 as a coordinator. He is likely to receive a raise for the job he is about to take on.

UConn will work to develop a pool of candidates in the coming weeks and months. It is unlikely a coach will be named before the end of the season, as that coach would almost certainly be a member of a staff for a team currently in the midst of its own season.

Spanos, 50, is in his second season, and third year, as UConn’s defensive coordinator. He has worked in the NFL and at the collegiate level for 26 years and most recently as an analyst at Alabama in 2018. Spanos was the Tennessee Titans linebackers coach in 2014-17. He played in college at Tulsa, is a native of suburban Pittsburgh and he was a defensive assistant with the Steelers for 15 years (1995—2009).

“I have gotten to know Lou over the last two years and have great respect for him as a person and for his football acumen. There is no doubt that Lou has the respect of the players and I look forward to supporting him and the team for the remainder of the 2021 season,” Benedict said.

Spanos will meet the media Tuesday at 11 a.m.

“I have a person I respect, one of my mentors — that’s (longtime NFL assistant) coach Dick LeBeau,” Spanos said Monday on iHeart Radio’s UConn Football Coach’s Show. “And he always told me — I’ve been with him for three different decades since the 90s — ‘One day at a time, my friend, one day at a time.’ So I’m going to focus right now … (on) tomorrow’s practice. … And then by Saturday we want [for] the UConn fans and also the students, to put something out on the field to make sure that (it’s) entertaining, that kids play hard and are having fun, and also just enjoy the moment. So, I;m going to take it day by day and enjoy this and more important, let the kids have fun.”

Edsall could not be reached Monday. Benedict had no comment beyond his statement in the announcement.

A struggling UConn program only regressed after Edsall’s return for the 2017 season, when he replaced the fired Bob Diaco. The Huskies were 3-9 in 2017, 1-11 in 2018 and 2-10 in 2019.

UConn opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 complications and returned this season confident that a year of training and planning would yield better results.

But the losses to Fresno State and Holy Cross were embarrassing, with UConn looking no better prepared to compete than it had at any point in this frustrating era. The fan base has eroded along the way and Edsall’s work, this time around, did nothing to inspire much interest.

Of Edsall’s six victories since 2017, just three were against FBS opponents.

Edsall’s departure brings to a close one of the more interesting — both in its initial success and late failure — coaching experiences in state history.

Previously the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech, he was hired in 1998 to run a program that was about to transition to the highest level of college football, then known as Division I-A. He guided the Huskies to their first bowl game in 2004, coaching a team led by quarterback Dan Orlovsky, and four consecutive bowls in 2007-10.

After a 48-20 loss to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl that followed the 2010 season, Edsall abandoned the team to fly to Maryland, where he was ultimately hired. He spent parts of five seasons with the Terps, reaching two bowl games, and was fired during the 2015 season with a 22-34 record at the school.

Meanwhile, UConn struggled under Paul Pasqualoni, who was fired by former Athletic Director Warde Manuel during the 2013 season, and Bob Diaco, who was fired after three seasons by Benedict.

Edsall spent 2016 as a consultant with the Detroit Lions and returned to UConn, officially, in Jan. 2017. The first thing he did during an introductory press conference was apologize for the way he left in 2011. UConn labeled the new era REStorred and Edsall 2.0.

What he was trying to do never gained traction. There was friction with some vocal members of the teams he took over. The program’s public image suffered as the losses piled up.

UConn left the American Athletic Conference after the 2019 season to join the Big East, leaving football as an independent program.

The Huskies haven’t had a winning season since 2010, the final season of Edsall’s first stint, and haven’t reached a bowl game since 2015, under Diaco.

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