The poor Connecticut Huskies football team. Nobody seems to love them.
UConn is 1-1, following a beatdown at the hands of a good Michigan team (30-10) with a super-duper beatdown of an overmatched Texas Southern team (62-3).
First, there are the mean voters in the AP Top 25. In the preseason poll, UConn was in the ever popular "Others receiving votes" category, coming in at No. 31. Not too shabby.
Now here we are after two games, and the word "Connecticut" is nowhere to be found in the 48 names listed.
Next are the slightly less mean people voting in the USA Today poll. Sitting at No. 32 in the preseason poll, Connecticut now sits at No. 48. Five crappy votes was all UConn received.
I mean, really.
Sure, that Michigan loss wasn't pretty, but there were mitigating factors. We're hearing that the team didn't practice well the week before the game (whatever that means). Michigan was better than we thought. The building was really loud. Maybe the kids were nervous about being on national TV for their opening game. Whatever, that loss is looking less horrible now that Michigan has also beaten Notre Dame.
Doesn't a score of 62-3 against a powerful (kidding) team like Texas Southern mean anything to these voters?
Okay, so Texas Southern is only an FCS (I-AA) team. They still had nice uniforms and stuff, didn't they? Rutgers only beat them by 42 last season, a far cry from the 59-point beating Connecticut administered.
Enough with the voters. They seem petty anyway. Maybe they're jealous or something.
Even more disconcerting are the Connecticut Huskies fans.
I'm on record somewhere as saying that UConn fans are among the worst in the nation. I really don't think much of us as a group. I'll probably expand on that in a separate post next time they (we) irk me, but for now, let's stick to football.
Coach Randy Edsall, his staff, and the entire athletic department have done a truly remarkable job of building UConn football from essentially nothing.
Sure, those 16 conference championships in the old Yankee Conference and later the Atlantic 10 are cool, but when you're playing the likes of URI, UNH, and UMass to get them, it sort of lacks a bit of prestige.
Edsall was hired in 1999, right as UConn embarked on the road from Division I-AA to I-A. The campaign got off to a predictably rough start, 3-8 and 2-9 in the first two years as a I-A independent, but it wasn't long before it was clear that Connecticut had found the right man.
UConn football's last season before joining the Big East produced a 9-3 record, and in 2004, the school earned its first ever bowl invitation—a 39-10 victory in the Motor City Bowl.
Connecticut earned a share of the Big East Conference championship in 2007 with a 9-4, 5-2 record and capped off the season with another bowl invitation.
UConn football has now been to three straight bowl games. In 2009, Connecticut defeated South Carolina, an SEC opponent, in the PapaJohns.com Bowl. You can bet on another bowl bid in 2010.
This season, Connecticut is projected to finish anywhere from first to third in the Big East. On the field, Connecticut football has arrived. The Huskies are on the verge of "big time" college football.
In the stands? Different story altogether.
Too many UConn football "fans" are treating the games the way I did in the mid-to-late '80s.
Start by partying in the parking lot/dorm/empty patch of grass before the game and continue this activity deep into the first quarter. Make your way into the stands and catch the second and third quarters, occasionally looking in the direction of the action. Begin leaving the stands at the start of the fourth quarter, and resume your merrymaking back at your starting point. You conclude the exercise by asking folks, "Who won?" on their way out of the stadium about a half an hour later.
Coming off a trip to Michigan, where Connecticut played before the largest and loudest crowd ever to watch a college football game, Coach Edsall had to remind UConn fans that that was the way fans support a team.
"That's a football environment," Edsall said. "That's what football is all about. And that's the way it should be. If you want to support your teams, that's what you do. You get into the stadium early and you stay until the end, win, lose or draw. Or not trying to get another drink before you go in. Somebody should have last call in the parking lot.
"You've got plenty of time to get there early; you've got four hours. ... We come out of the tunnel about five minutes before they start the game. You would hope that the place would be packed so when our guys come out of the tunnel all those fans are cheering. That's what the environment should be. That's what you would expect. It's disappointing when it isn't that way, to be truthful. It's disappointing."
Well, Randy must have been disappointed by the crowd at Rentschler Field for Saturday's game against Texas Southern.
The stadium was about half empty (no, not "half full") as the players hit the tunnel. Thousands of the 40,000 seats were still empty at kickoff. The stadium was sold out and eventually did fill up, but a mass exodus back into parking lot began well before the clock expired.
You might think that fans in Connecticut deserve a pass, given our lack of experience with "big time" college football. Decent theory, but that pass expired a few seasons ago. Heck, the football coach is actually taking the time to educate the fans on proper protocol.
If the fans are still unsure of how to support a team, watch a University of Georgia or Notre Dame University game some time. Try to find an empty seat during the warm-ups—I dare you.
Pack the damn stadium before kickoff. Doesn't seem hard, does it?
While I have you here, please indulge me in a final thought on supporting college sports.
You can walk out of a movie if you don't like it—no harm done. You can boo your favorite pro team if they lay down on the job—I wouldn't, but it doesn't bother me.
College sports are different. These are kids. They are sons and daughters, friends and classmates, taking the field in the name of the school you support.
I know that the revenue-producing college sports have many business-like elements to them (not all good), but these are fundamentally student-athletes trying their best to represent their school. They are playing for you as much as anything else. These aren't professionals cashing a weekly paycheck (for the most part); they're kids.
These kids are doing everything they can on the field to represent the University of Connecticut. Would it kill you to show up and support them with the respect and pride that they deserve?