Change of plans: Randy Edsall out immediately as UConn football coach; Lou Spanos takes over
HARTFORD, Conn. — After meeting Monday, UConn AD David Benedict and out-going football coach Randy Edsall changed course.
Edsall had announced his decision to retire at the end of the season, but there will be no 10-game lame-duck period after all. Edsall will step aside immediately, to be replaced by defensive coordinator Lou Spanos, the school announced.
“Upon further reflection by both Randy and I,” Benedict said in a statement released by the university, “and after having the opportunity to visit with Randy today, we are both in agreement that it is in the best interest of our student-athletes to have a new voice leading UConn football.”
Edsall, 63, coached UConn from 1999-2011, and then returned in 2017. His second stint has lasted three-plus seasons, not counting the 2020 season, canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. With a year to regroup, this season began with a 45-0 loss at Fresno State and a 38-28 loss to Holy Cross, an FCS program, on Saturday, touching off what became a chaotic holiday weekend.
On Sunday, midafternoon, Edsall, whose contract runs through 2023, announced his intention to retire at the end of the season, which continues with a home game against Purdue on Saturday. The move raised a lot of questions, such as how such a lame-duck period would affect recruiting, the search for a new coach, or the morale of the players.
Spanos, who took Edsall’s place on the UConn coaches show on ESPN radio, told host Mike Crispino the move was made with the seniors in mind.
“We addressed the team that, this is a 10 game season,” Spanos said, “and we’re going to make this season special, especially for our seniors and also the entire team.”
Thus came the agreement to end it now. Edsall will be paid his full $1.25 million salary for 2021, a school source confirmed.
After Edsall returned, UConn went 6-32, with three of the wins coming against FCS opponents.
UConn’s defense has struggled as much as the offense in the two games, giving up more than 900 yards, but Spanos, who has 26 years in coaching, takes over.
“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,” Benedict said. “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.”
Spanos, 50, an offensive lineman at Tulsa during his playing days, has spent most of his coaching career in the NFL, as a quality control and assistant linebackers coach with the Steelers, 1995-2009, as linebackers coach with Washington, 2010-11, and the Titans (2014-17). He has also been a defensive coordinator at UCLA (2012-13) and an “analyst” under Nick Saban at Alabama in 2018.
“A lot of the head coaches I worked with, I learned a lot,” Spanos said on the coach’s show.
After the Huskies had one of the worst defensive seasons in NCAA history in 2018, allowing 617 yards per game, Spanos was hired, but improvement has been only marginal since.
It’s not clear as yet whether Spanos will be a candidate for the permanent head coaching position, but he will at least have 10 games to show what he can do.
“I’m fortunate enough to do a job,” he told ESPN radio, “coaching, to these kids, these young men, it’s about football. They want to win, they want to win in the worse way. It’s our job to put them in the best position to win, enjoy the moment and have fun. ... Fortunately, I have a lot of history with our student athletes here. They understand what we expect.” “It’s football. It’s 11 guys on the field doing what they love.”
There was some controversy involving Spanos following the game Saturday, when a video showed him breaking a huddle and raising his arm, making a fist, a gesture that usually invites players to do the same, but UConn’s players did not respond. Junior defensive back Jeremy Lucien tweeted about it Monday.
“Ok so this clip is taken WAY out of context,” Lucien posted. “Best believe we all love Coach Spanos! That’s our head coach now.”
Shawn McFarlane contributed to this story,.
Dom Amore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.