Fiesta Bowl 2010: UConn Shaking Label of Being Primarily a Basketball School

Luke McConnellCorrespondent IDecember 27, 2010

UConn head coach Randy Edsall has been the driving force behind the Huskies' drive to college football relevancy.
UConn head coach Randy Edsall has been the driving force behind the Huskies' drive to college football relevancy.Elsa/Getty Images

The University of Connecticut has been known as a basketball school for, well, ever.  

With a men's a women's program that are consistently in the top 25 and making deep runs in the NCAA tournament and ultimately winning championships, it's hard to be considered as such.  

However, the UConn football team is doing its best to shed the stereotype that football season is simply something to keep fans occupied on the way to basketball season.  

On January 1, the Huskies will face off against the Oklahoma Sooners in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl as Big East Conference champions. It is the first BCS bowl game for the program who only 12 years ago was playing at the FCS level.

In 1997, the school board of trustees voted overwhelmingly in favor of upgrading the school's football program to the highest level of college athletics. Then athletic director Lew Perkins cited reasons such as the possibility of falling behind schools that fielded football and basketball teams at the highest level as motivation for the change.  

UConn went into the two year transitional phase of the upgrade in 2000 and went 5-17 in the two following seasons. In 2002, the Huskies were officially a I-A football program and went 6-6, followed by a 9-3 season in 2003. However, the Huskies did not receive a bowl bid either season due to their lack of a conference affiliation.

The 2004 season was the first for the Huskies as a Big East school and the team has many successes since then, winning three of the four bowl games they have participated in and sharing two Big East conference titles.  

The constant in this whole process has been head coach Randy Edsall, who has guided the Huskies for the past 12 seasons. Edsall has taken the Huskies from fledgling I-AA program to bowl team to now Big East champion and BCS bowl participant.  

What this program has accomplished since 1999 is nothing short of remarkable.

The Huskies can add to their growing legacy if they can knock off Oklahoma on Saturday night. However, it won't be easy by any stretch of the imagination.

The Sooners are one of college football's most historic programs and will be looking to snap a five game BCS bowl losing streak. Add in the fact that Oklahoma already validated another upstart program in Boise State, and you have a very focused and determined Sooner team that will be looking to protect their reputation as one of the best.

Regardless of the outcome in this game, UConn has changed the way people, both fans of the Huskies and generic college football fans, view their team.

August no longer signals only three months until basketball season.  

It signals that it's football time in Connecticut. East Hartford, to be exact.