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Randy Edsall Story

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by doublej, Dec 1, 2006.

  1. doublej

    doublej New Member

    I will start by saying I'm a recent college grad working for a small paper in Pennsylvania. I've been working on this story on the side for about a month, so I thought this would be a good place to get some feedback. Any thoughts at all would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    The coach stands behind the podium with his legs shoulder-width apart, looking oddly comfortable as he's bombarded with questions.¶

    His team has just lost its seventh game of 2006, suffering its fourth defeat of the year in its three-year-old, $91.2 million stadium. On this Saturday afternoon in late November, a missed extra point was the turning point in the game. It allows Cincinnati to tie the score, 23-23, on a touchdown with 2:19 left in the fourth quarter. The Bearcats then engineer the game-winning drive for a field goal with 10 seconds remaining in regulation.¶

    Many would call this the low point of the season. A loss to lowly Syracuse on the road the week before and this Saturday's defeat puts the coach's team at 4-7 — crushing any chance of a bowl invitation. The coach has also faced problems off the field this year, dismissing five players from the program in October after the group purchased beer the night before a conference game. ¶

    Yet Randy Edsall has been through enough in his life and coaching career to know when to stay focused on the bigger picture. On this day, he answers questions for nearly 20 minutes in a postgame news conference, speaking uninterrupted for minutes at a time. He sounds like a proud father as he touches on the efforts of his 22 seniors, who have just played in the last home game of their college careers. If one tuned into this news conference before seeing the final score, Edsall's demeanor might suggest the Huskies left Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., with a victory instead of the 26-23 defeat.¶

    For the last eight years, Edsall has been the head football coach at the University of Connecticut. The Glen Rock native has taken on the task of building up a former NCAA Division I-AA program from a miniscule source of entertainment during UConn's basketball offseason, to an up-and-coming Division I-A program in the Big East Conference.¶

    The reclamation project at Connecticut has drawn the attention of the national media and those around the country, but the truth is Edsall's whole life has been spent building something from nothing wherever he's gone. It's just that everyone is finally catching up with what the 48-year-old has been capable of for more than 25 years. ?

    Õ¤Õ¤Õ û

    <el4>It's the fall of 1975, and Randy Edsall stands on the sidelines in the last football game of his career at Susquehannock High School. After leading the Warriors to a 9-1 season the year before as Susquehannock's starting quarterback, the graduation of many key players on both sides of the ball has made Edsall's senior season a difficult one.¶

    York Tech has just scored a touchdown, leaving Susquehannock trailing by five points late in the fourth quarter. Over the last two seasons, Edsall has matured into a capable drop-back passer for the Warriors after playing at defensive back as a freshman. But in this game, the Spartans’ score causes head coach John Gentzler to approach Edsall with special instructions.¶

    Gentzler sends him in on the kickoff return unit, hoping the talented, all-around athlete will be able to save the Warriors on this night with his legs rather than his arm. The senior responds by taking the ensuing kickoff back for the game-winning touchdown.¶

    "I knew he had athletic ability growing up, it was a question of how hard he wanted to work," father Richard Edsall said. "I never had to prod him to do that. It seemed like the tougher the situation, the better he responded."¶

    Edsall is an all-state selection in football, basketball and baseball in his senior year at Susquehannock, leaving him with plenty of options. Ten major league baseball teams contact him, looking to sign the young athlete to a minor league contract. A number of NCAA Division II schools are interested in plugging Edsall into their basketball lineups.¶

    But the then 18-year-old settles on the free education that comes with Syracuse University's football scholarship offer. The decision may have seemed strange to some — Edsall preferred baseball and basketball to the grind of the gridiron — but after a trip to upstate New York to see a Syracuse basketball game one Friday night, Edsall is sold on the school and the education available to him. He would later harbor doubt and regret about his decision to join a football program that was knee-deep in a rebuilding process following the glory days of Ernie Davis, Floyd Little and Larry Csonka in the 1960s. ?

  2. doublej

    doublej New Member


    <el4>Randy Edsall walks into Syracuse head coach Frank Maloney's office during preseason double sessions. It's just before the start of his junior season.¶

    Edsall is frustrated and wants to go home. After battling various leg injuries and serving as Bill Hurley's backup at quarterback the last two seasons, he is ready to give up on football and the program that is in desperate need of change. When Syracuse suits up for games in the old Archbold Stadium, players have to talk over the dogs barking in the laboratories above the locker room as they lace up their cleats on concrete benches.¶

    Maloney knows Edsall won't see the field as long as Hurley is healthy. The coach has revamped his offense over the last few years, shifting from a traditional I-formation system to an option scheme to better utilize Hurley's athletic ability. The fifth-year coach knows the odds stacked against Edsall, but he asks him to stay, realizing that he has an eye for reading defenses and is one of the Orangemen's brightest players.¶

    "I didn't tell him anything false, but I had to literally beg him to stay," said Maloney, who is now the director of ticket operations for the Chicago Cubs. "I knew that he probably wasn't going to help the team as much on the field, but he was the kind of guy we wanted around the program."¶

    Maloney's speech convinces Edsall to remain at the school, and he gets a brief chance to play when Hurley is hurt early in the season. He earns a letter for serving as the Orangemen's quarterback before Hurley's return, but most of his time is spent pitching the ball to the Orangemen’s running backs. The season ends with Syracuse's first bowl appearance since 1967 — a 31-7 win in the 1979 Independence Bowl — but the only pass attempt of Edsall’s college career is an interception. Hurley goes on to the NFL to play as a safety for New Orleans and Buffalo — leaving Syracuse as the school’s all-time leader in total offense at the time. ¶

    After completing his bachelor's degree in health and physical education, Edsall decides to stay at Syracuse to earn his master's degree — something he figures he’ll need down the road to be a college head coach. This allows Maloney to name Edsall a graduate assistant for the Orangemen.¶

    He leads the scout team and serves mostly as a gopher during his first year as a coach, and Dick MacPherson takes over for Maloney in 1981. MacPherson keeps Edsall on for another year as a graduate assistant before naming him the running backs coach in 1983. Both Maloney and MacPherson witness the early promise in the young coach from Glen Rock. ?

    Õ¤Õ¤Õ û

    <el4>Randy Edsall is driving from the airport near Buckhead, Ga., to a Marriott in December of 1998. His passengers are UConn athletic director Lew Perkins and associate athletic director Jeff Hathaway. The two have just arrived on a private jet, making the first stop on their tour in search of candidates for the head coaching position at UConn.¶

    Edsall is lost. This is no surprise, given he has only spent six months in the area after taking the job as Georgia Tech's defensive coordinator. He thinks that his lack of direction is blowing the interview before it even starts, but Edsall finally finds the Marriott, where the three men settle in for a bite to eat and a three-hour conversation.¶

    Edsall lays out his plan for the UConn football program: expectations for coaches, academic standards for his players and changes he'll make at the school in Storrs. As Edsall drops Perkins and Hathaway back at the airport after the meeting, the two men already know they'll be calling him back very soon.¶

    On Dec. 21, Edsall is named the head coach at UConn — marking the beginning of the football program's shift to NCAA Division I-A. The three years Edsall spent as defensive backs coach for the NFL expansion Jacksonville Jaguars help assure Perkins and Hathaway that the coach will be capable of leading the program up from the ground level.¶

    The plan is to play as competitive a schedule as possible while making sure that the Huskies post a decent enough record to attract recruits. The facilities almost bring Edsall back to his days at Syracuse. The football team conducts team meetings in trailers and practices at Memorial Stadium — a nearly 50-year-old facility.¶

    "I took the job sight-unseen and I didn't know what I was getting into other than I was going to be a head coach," Edsall said. "You kind of felt like a bunch of gypsies. You never had a place to put your feet on and you had no facilities whatsoever. It's been one transition after another." ?
  3. doublej

    doublej New Member

    (Last Section)

    <el4>As Randy Edsall speaks to the members of the media after the loss to Cincinnati on Nov. 25, he is almost a different person from the man everyone watched on the sidelines during the Huskies’ agonizing defeat. He spent the last four hours yelling in the ear of the closest official, slamming down his headset and pleading his team's case on UConn's sideline at Rentschler Field.¶

    But now Edsall is relaxed because he realizes something that most cynics are apt to dismiss. The football program is way ahead of schedule despite two consecutive losing seasons following a pair of successful campaigns in 2003 and 2004. The Huskies posted a combined 17-7 record in '03 and '04, capping the two-year run with a 39-10 win in the 2004 Motor City Bowl. The taste of success has made Connecticut fans hungry for more.¶

    Edsall and anyone involved with the program will acknowledge that they never expected to be competitive this quickly. So the second straight losing season doesn't bring as much concern as one would think.¶

    This is Connecticut's first year with the Burton Family Football Complex and the Mark R. Shenkman Training Center — two additions that cost nearly $40 million and allowed the coaches and players to say goodbye to the trailers for good. Factor in the 40,000-seat Rentschler Field, and the Huskies finally have the resources to attract top recruits.¶

    But the improving academic standards at UConn have affected Edsall’s program drastically. He can no longer recruit the same players with the average UConn freshman scoring a 1200 on the SAT. So even with the new facilities, the question still remains whether or not blue chip recruits will finally make their way to Storrs.

    As for Edsall, the decision to come to UConn eight years ago was considered a large risk by many. But the man from Glen Rock has done what he's always done — turning a shaky situation into a success.¶

    "Randy is just a motivated person who wants to make himself and all those around him better," said Hathaway, now the athletic director at Connecticut. "I've been blessed to work with some very good coaches, and Randy is one of those guys. He has many years to coach, but I'm sure he'll leave his mark on college football."¶

  4. Jones

    Jones Active Member

    I'll give it a deeper read in a while, but before the wolves come out: hair is shoulder-length; a stance is shoulder-width.
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