UConn football continues to hit new lows: 'Honestly, it's just stunning'

UConn fans wear bags on their heads during a 2013 game against Louisville in East Hartford.

UConn fans wear bags on their heads during a 2013 game against Louisville in East Hartford.

Jared Wickerham / Getty Images

Back in August, UConn football fans were processing the possibility that the Huskies could begin to make the long climb back to respectability by winning a couple games. Now, with the Huskies having lost seven straight to open the season, there’s little reason to be optimistic anymore.

The Huskies aren’t just bad, but woeful. A punchline nationally. Incapable of providing the slightest hint of momentum.

Last Saturday’s loss to FBS bottom-feeder UMass was the latest example of ineptitude. It caused some of the program’s most prominent alums, including former NFL quarterback-turned-analyst Dan Orlovsky, to sound off, and also ratcheted up the criticism from national media.

“Honestly, it’s just stunning,” ESPN senior writer Ryan McGee said of the Huskies’ downfall. “It was one of the great stories of college football when they had their run and won the Big East (in the 2010-11 season). Obviously you had the Fiesta Bowl. Just to go from there to this, it’s hard to do — to be that bad that many years in a row.”

Was it rock bottom? At least for now it was. But as the Huskies have shown throughout this forgettable season, they keep sinking to new depths of futility.

There’s a chance for further embarrassment when UConn hosts neighboring Yale Saturday (noon, CBS Sports Network). It’s the schools’ first meeting since 1998 — UConn’s second to last season at the NCAA I-AA level.

Yale, picked in the preseason to finish second in the Ivy League, is off to a 2-2 start. Not great. Not bad. Simply average. However, some are forecasting the Bulldogs to beat the Huskies.

In fact, ESPN’s Football Power Index rankings give the Bulldogs a 60% chance of winning Saturday. That’s right, the Huskies, who have already lost to one FCS team (Holy Cross) this season, are underdogs to another.

McGee, who authors the Bottom 10, a weekly regular season ranking of the 10 worst teams at the FBS level, unceremoniously moved UConn to No. 1 in the poll following the loss to UMass.

“To me, it’s not even close,” he said.

“I’ve been writing about them for, I think, eight years now. Teams come and go, and UConn’s never gone. They came and they’ve been there (in the poll) ever since.”

The matchup between winless teams — billed by USA Today as the “worst game of this — or any — college football season” — was preceded by word that five Huskies, including interim coach Lou Spanos and starting left tackle Ryan Van Demark, had tested positive for COVID-19, and wouldn’t accompany the team to Amherst.

It was another unfortunate break in a chaotic season — especially for Spanos, the former defensive coordinator, who has drawn praise from fellow coaches, players, and media for his leadership following Randy Edsall’s abrupt retirement.

“If you watch the coaches now, there’s an enthusiasm, they’re working hard, all that stuff. None of that stuff was there before,” McGee said. “There wasn’t any energy. Now there’s at least some energy. But again, it’s the most UConn-thing ever, you’ve got an interim head coach, there’s energy and then they all get COVID and can’t be there for the game.”

Edsall, 63, was just 6-32 over three-plus seasons during his second stint as UConn coach. He went 80-102 overall, having guided the Huskies’ transition from Division I-AA to Division I-A in 1999-00, before bolting for Maryland following a Fiesta Bowl appearance on New Year’s Day 2011. It was one of five bowl games the Huskies made under his watch.

“Listen, rehiring Randy Edsall was a horrible mistake,” McGee said. “Everyone around the country knew it when it happened. … They made just a series of really bad decisions that everyone on the outside seemed to understand were bad. But I think even those of us who saw the dominoes falling didn’t think they would fall this far.”

And yet, here the Huskies are, winless and noncompetitive, set to embark on another coaching search.

How enticing is the job? For perspective’s sake, the Athletic polled a collection of current coaches, athletic directors and agents who ranked it the hardest job in the country. Among the concerns voiced was a perceived lack of support from school administration.

“UConn guys talk about how that school really doesn’t do much for that football program,” an anonymous Power 5 assistant said. “Well, if you’re not gonna support the program, it’s not gonna become what it ultimately could become.”

One obvious draw? State-of-the-art facilities, including the Burton Family Football Complex.

“I think peoples’ perception is if you go visit UConn it’s dilapidated, they’re using second-hand equipment, and that’s just not the case,” McGee said. “That’s part of what’s so baffling about it. It’s certainly not in the same realm as Clemson or Alabama, but it’s as nice as anywhere I go in the ACC outside of Clemson and it’s as nice as anything I see when I go out to the West Coast in the Pac-12. It’s on par with Power 5. Particularly in the Northeast, their facilities are way better than Boston College.

“They’re so invested in it, but they just made so many bad decisions. You can’t just throw money out and build a nice facility. You’ve got to put something in it. They worked really hard to screw it up.”

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour