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Sports Commentary 10/11/13

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(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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The Elephant is still in the Room for UConn Football…

THE MANTRA AND THE ELEPHANT

Before they were “All In” UCONN athletic director Warde Manuel tried hard to take someone out.  That elephant, the big one left sitting in the middle of the room after he fired head coach Paul Pasqualoni and replaced him on an interim basis with offensive coordinator T.J. Weist following an embarrassing loss at Buffalo.

The elephant, the one that, despite Manuel’s best efforts, is still there, is conference realignment, which Manuel downplayed as being part of his decision and his timing.  “Football is important in the equation, as you can see from the transitions that have been made”, he said, before introducing Weist, “Whether conference realignment was on deck or not, as it has been in the last couple of years, I want to win, our fans want to win, our team wants to win.  This is not being done for conference realignment.”

All that said, the elephant hasn’t gone away, not like Louisville, the only ranked team in the weak, lightly regarded AAC, and Rutgers, who’s departures next season will make the league even weaker. Yesterday the AAC announced extensions with the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl and the BBVA Compass Bowl, not exactly destinations teams from the newly aligned five power conferences view as post season rewards, while trying to establish new bowls in Miami and the Bahamas, hoping the destinations will make them attractive.

That elephant is like a ticking time bomb and time is running out on any program hoping to ascend into one of the five power leagues.  Manuel’s assessment was an understatement.  Football is the most important part of the equation.  For a move up to succeed, football has to succeed.  0-4 isn’t attracting a lot of attention in Ohio, Pennsylvania or on Tobacco Road.  Manuel is running out of moves, but his move in firing Pasqualoni just four games into the season was a big one that made people stand up and take notice.  Now it’s up to Weist, but one of his first moves was an acknowlegement that he can’t do it alone.  Not one who puts a lot of store in slogans and catchphrases, Weist came up with a simple one, one that sums up the current UCONN situation.  “All In”.

Posters carrying the mantra dot every doorway and hall in the on campus football facility.  It says what it means.  “It means that all of us have to come together”, said Weist in explaining why this, why so simple, “All of us have to be focused on one purpose, in everything we do, and it starts with (the coaches) making decisions that are best for the team.”

Decision number one was to turn the starting quarterback job over to true freshman Tim Boyle of Middlefield and Xavier High in Middletown, one of several freshman who will find their way onto the depth chart for tomorrow’s must win game against South Florida at Rentschler Field.  There are no redshirts on this team.  “All In”.  Anyone who can help the team win will get the chance.

“It fits us well right now”, Weist says of the slogan, “We need everybody together and I think they’ve responded well.  I think they believe it and that’s what the key is”.

“All In”.  It doesn’t stop with Manuel and Weist, not with the coaches and the players.  8-0 the rest of the way won’t be enough, not on it’s own.  About three thousand tickets remain for the South Florida game.  If they aren’t sold, if every ticket for the remaining four home games isn’t sold, UCONN Nation isn’t “All In”.

T.J. Weist is right, the only way to send the message to the five most important corners in college athletics, the only way to remove the elephant from the room, is to be “All In”.

With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.

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