Jan. 31, 2014
Over the next few weeks, UConnHuskies.com will take an in-depth look at the new football coaching staff head coach Bob Diaco has assembled. The series will include feature stories along with special edition episodes of "The Blitz" for each coach. Next up, offensive line coach Mike Foley.
By Steve Lewis
When new UConn football coach Bob Diaco began assembling his coaching staff, he had to consider if he would retain any members of the current group. When he asked for advice from different people the one consistent recommendation was Mike Foley.
Foley is entering his ninth season on the UConn staff and will work with the Husky offense live. Diaco is now the third different head coach that Foley has worked for during his time in Storrs after having spent five years under Randy Edsall and three years under Paul Pasqualoni.
"When I came in, Coach Edsall was here with his staff so I was the new guy," said Foley. "When Coach Pasqualoni came in, there wasn't a lot of change other than the head coach and a couple guys on the staff, so it wasn't much of a change."
Foley sees this change in structure a different than the other coaching chagnes at UConn, but he is convinced the program is now headed in a good direction.
"Coach Diaco is new, but at the same time, it's all new assistants except for myself -- so it's almost like a new job," said Foley. "There's a lot of change this time around, which can be very good. Our program has gone from a point of Coach Edsall taking it from I-AA football to the Fiesta Bowl, then we slid back and now hopefully we'll be on the rise again."
Foley's long tenure as a Husky can be accredited to the fact that he coached at offensive line that has protected some of the school's most outstanding running backs. The list includes 1,000-yard gainers Donald Brown
, Jordan Todman
, Andre Dixon
and current starter Lyle McCombs
"I think the biggest thing is that those guys are good backs. If you want to be an offensive line coach, I would say to make sure you get some good backs," joked Foley.
Todman and Dixon were both 1,000 yard rushers in 2009 and Todman achieved the feat once again in 2010. Todman was named Big East Player of the Year and an All-American in 2010 due to a strong line dominated by center Moe Petrus and tackle Mike Ryan, who were named First-Team All-Big East and Second-Team All-Big East respectively.
It was behind Foley's offensive line that Donald Brown was the country's leading rusher in 2008, which is also the year that left tackle Will Beatty was a First-Team All-Big East selection and was drafted by the Giants in the second round. Beatty is still with the Giants.
"I think the biggest thing from an offensive line standpoint is you want to be physical, in order to be a good run team you need to be physical and get after people on a consistent basis," said Foley. "You need to be physical and mistake-free, you don't want a lot of negative plays. You always get a body on a body."
Prior to his tenure at UConn, Foley spent 21 years at his alma mater Colgate after his playing days. He served as the offensive line coach in 1983 and added the duties of offensive coordinator in 1984.
In 1986, Foley was named the interim head coach at Colgate while Fred Dunlap, the current coach, underwent bypass surgery. Following Dunlap's retirement in 1987, Foley was hired as the full-time head coach, which is where he stayed until 1992. After spending three seasons at Harvard as their offensive coordinator, he returned to Colgate under the same title and coached there until 2005 when he joined UConn.
When asked about how he has kept the offensive line so strong at UConn over the years, Foley credits the younger players for stepping up in the absence of graduating seniors.
"That's college football. It's not like the pros where once in a while you'll have a guy retire. You know over a four or five-year period, it's going to roll through and it's time for the young guys to step up," said Foley. "I think there are some good young players that can do the job and sure, they have to get on the field and gain some experience, but in time they will develop into really fine players."
Even after three straight seasons without bowl appearances, Foley still thinks UConn is the place to be which is why he met with Diaco soon after he was hired.
"I told Coach Diaco that if I didn't want to be here, I wouldn't have even gone to the meeting. I would have moved on and got a change of scenery," said Foley. "I felt though that UConn is a place we can be successful and do very well."
Though Foley was born in Kittery, Maine, he grew up in Newburyport, Mass. He has a wife, Kathleen, and two grown children, Erin and Patrick. Patrick is currently the co-defensive coordinator at Colgate, his father's alma mater.
During the offseason, Foley likes to get away with his wife whenever possible. "I like to go up to the beach in Massachusetts, we go to the shore and relax. We also go to Maine for a week and hang out on a lake up there."