Pasqualoni Comes Home to Connecticut
STORRS, Conn. -- Paul Pasqualoni is a Connecticut native and, through his journeys as a coach, has always found a way to monitor the football pulse in his home state. That almost became mandatory when he was coaching at nearby Syracuse, and the University of Connecticut decided to upgrade its program from Football Championship Subdivision to Football Bowl Subdivision status.
On Thursday, UConn called Pasqualoni home again, this time for a much closer look at Huskies football.
Athletic director Jeff Hathaway formally introduced Pasqualoni as the new head coach at UConn on Friday, ending a whirlwind search that began Jan. 2 when Randy Edsall left for Maryland -- one day after coaching the Huskies against Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
"Growing up in Connecticut, I always was impressed with the way the University of Connecticut did things," said Pasqualoni, who was defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys in 2010. "I always felt they were committed to doing things in a first-class manner and that became very apparent with their basketball programs.
"To me, they were always the higher-level program in the old (I-AA) Yankee Conference. Maybe that's where I formulated this perception that UConn was going to do things in a first-class way."
Pasqualoni received a five-year contract with a total package the first year worth $1.5 million. The deal, including base salary, public relations and media fees, increases to $1.9 million in 2015. He did not announce any decisions regarding his coaching staff, but that will be a priority, in addition to positioning UConn for the upcoming signing period.
He was strongly endorsed by the Connecticut High School Coaches' Association, as well as coaching associations from New Jersey and New York. That may have been key to his hiring. Before UConn upgraded, Pasqualoni enjoyed recruiting success in Connecticut, including attracting linebacker Dwight Freeney to Syracuse out of Bloomfield, Conn.
When Pasqualoni, 61, heard Edsall had changed jobs, he said he was immediately interested in the UConn opening. On Friday, both sides referred to his hiring as "the right fit." Six candidates were interviewed for the position and, despite published reports earlier in the week that former University of Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple would be hired, Hathaway said the only offer went to Pasqualoni.
"Yes, and to be clear, he's the only person that we had follow-up conversations with past the interview," Hathaway said.
Hathaway also said he never gave any consideration to Pasqualoni's age. Whipple is 53, much closer to Edsall, 52, who spent 12 years at UConn and directed the upgrade to the FBS.
"This is a young man's game," Pasqualoni said. "And I feel young. You are as old as you feel. My passion for football, the energy and all those things – I feel better today and more active. I feel like I have more juice today than I did 10 years ago."
Pasqualoni grew up on his family's vegetable farm in Cheshire, Conn., a lifestyle he said "motivated me to go to college" and become a teacher and a football coach. The 1972 Penn State graduate walked on to the football team and later lettered. He was head football coach and athletic director at Western Connecticut from 1982 to 1986 before moving on to Syracuse as an assistant coach.
As head coach of the Orange from 1991-2004, he won 107 games and led Syracuse to four Big East Conference titles, including a share of the 2004 championship in his final season. His postseason record at SU was 6-3 and he led the Orange to two Fiesta Bowl appearances as well as a trip to the Orange Bowl in the first year of the Bowl Championship Series.
"I think it's good for UConn and the Big East Conference to have a head football coach who is so familiar with this area and this conference," said Nick Carparelli, Jr., senior associate commissioner for Big East football. "With the experience he has, there's no doubt he will hit the ground running and be a factor immediately in this league."
This is a new and different Big East Conference, one that will be adding TCU and possibly another member in the future. Pasqualoni's biggest task will be keeping the Huskies competitive. UConn fans also want to see a more exciting and explosive offense, something Edsall did not offer with his run-oriented philosophy. There are already questions about whether Pasqualoni, another defensive-minded coach, can deliver that.
"This is a complementary game," he said Friday. "The offense has to complement the defense and the defense has to complement the offense and special teams. If you have the right people throwing it and the right people catching it, you have a chance to be explosive. And that's what we want to be, explosive running the ball and throwing the ball. That usually equates to excitement."
Carparelli was among an estimated gathering of 150 officials and reporters who attended the news conference. So was Tebucky Jones, of New Britain, Conn. Jones was a defensive back under Pasqualoni at Syracuse before going on to an eight-year NFL career.
Now Jones has a son on the UConn roster. Tebucky Jones, Jr., was a freshman wide receiver on the UConn team that finished 8-5, including a 48-20 loss to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
"He's a great recruiter and he can be tough," Jones said. "He expects the best. I can remember my senior year and he always got our best, every week. He has coached both [college and pro players] but like he said, he went to school to be a teacher. I guess he feels he's better off teaching youth and getting them ready for life."