Sept. 30, 2013
Director of Athletics Warde Manuel
I want to apologize for my voice the last couple of weeks. Between a cold and yelling and cheering, and yelling, I've lost it. So if you don't understand something or need to clarify please let me know. I want to first start off by thanking President Herbst, Chairman McHugh, the Board for all their support in this tough decision. The timing of change is never perfect, but change was necessary. I do want to thank Paul for his hard work and dedication to UConn and to the state of Connecticut. He is one of our own. He is a great person, he has a great family. This was not the result of a lack of effort. I want to also thank George. George is a hard worker as many of you know. He cares deeply for this program not only as a coach but as a former Husky himself.
I'm changing now because we have to have different leadership to get different results. I told the team, and I want to make sure everybody understands that I'm not throwing in the towel on this season. To the contrary, I want this team to wake up, play hard, and play tough, exciting football that we've come to know. We have players on this team that can play, that can win, but we must return to the fundamentals that have led to our success. I want this team to have fun and to play hard and win on every down. I do want to thank our fans, our donors and our students for their tremendous support in our first three home games. Electric environment that helped our team, particularly in the Michigan game, achieve great things. I want to ask that all of you continue your support of our coaches and our student-athletes. They need you now; they need you now more than ever.
I'm sure many of you are wondering when I made my decision. I am not going to leave you guys with a sense that I was not angry and mad and a whole bunch of other words that would describe how I felt on Saturday evening. But I tried not to make an emotional decision. I called President Herbst on Sunday morning. We had a brief but deep conversation about what I was thinking. I told her I would call her later in the evening to let her know my thoughts. At around 6pm I called President Herbst to let her know that it was time to make a change. She supported that decision and at 8:30pm this morning I met with Coach Pasqualoni and informed him of the change. I met with Coach DeLeone and also informed him this morning of the change. And Mike Foley will take over as offensive line coach and Coach Weist will make the decision as to how to fill the other positions.
I have talked with the coaching staff, told them my belief in them. It's not an easy decision. Coach Pasqualoni brought them all here, kept them here. This is not a decision that anybody takes lightly, but it was my decision and I told them to focus on helping our student-athletes and themselves to use this to be more successful this season.
The search process will be ongoing. It will not be something that will be resolved in the next eight to nine weeks. Coach Weist is our coach for the rest of the season. At the appropriate time I will readdress members of the media on the process at the end of the season and what we will do throughout that search. But right now, my focus and my public comments will be to support the team and Coach Weist while doing what I need to do to make sure as we go through this we are prepared to bring in the next coach.
I have named TJ Weist our interim coach. I have full faith in him to lead this program in the next eight to nine weeks, maybe longer. You have his bio and his background; he will run day-to-day operations of the team. And, lastly, I will say to all of our prospects who are wondering where we are going to be, we will honor all commitments to any of our prospects who have already committed to us. We will continue to recruit for UConn and do things the proper way to ensure our continued and future success.
On what he's been uncomfortable with this season:
"I'm not comfortable with losing. I felt, coming of the Michigan game, that this team had performed in an exceptional way in that game. I thought our performance at Buffalo did not meet those same expectations. Was it the only reason that I made a change? No. This was over the course of observations over the last 18 or 19 months, since I've been in this job. I think the effort level - I don't think this team every quit. But I thought it was time to stop talking about what we should do and to make a change that would make a statement to our coaches, our teams, our fans, that we expect more. Like I said, this in no way should be read that this is not about this season. I talked to this team earlier, Coach Weist talked to them earlier. We have a great group of young men on this team, and they all nodded their heads when coach asked them if they were all in, and it's important that people understand that we are not giving up. We will never, ever give up. There's only so much you can talk about in terms of change without making change happen."
On whether he regrets not making a coaching change at the end of last season:
"I don't regret the decision. At the end of last year we won at Louisville, beat Pittsburgh and then lost to Cincinnati. I really did think that we were making progress towards the end of the year. No way did I expect us to be sitting here today 0-4 and having to make this decision. I don't think many expected it. I don't regret the decision that I made last year, and I believe wholeheartedly in supporting our coaches and our teams, and this is not something I enjoy doing four games in. Deep down I felt that the change was needed to make change happen.
On what Coach Weist's passion and energy for football will bring to the program:
"You'll see and find what I've seen in TJ and observed for the last year. He has a passion for this game and a passion for coaching his student athletes. He has a drive that is probably more reflective of the type of passion in our fans that our team needs at this time. He's a great coach with a great pedigree, and he's a great person. As you all get a chance to see him, you'll see the things that I saw in him in the past six to seven months.
On what Coach Weist would have to do this season to get a long-term position at UConn:
"Win. All he has to do is worry about this team, focusing on academics and football. The numbers will speak for themselves, and at that time we'll see what goes on. He has to win. If he wants any shot at the job he has to win.
On what specific qualities he looks for in a new football coach:
"Ultimately, I want success. I want a person who in many respects is like Paul. The things outside of the field right now I want. Our kids are doing fine in the classroom and make great decisions off the field. The bottom line is in this game, at this time, success is what we all desire. That's ultimately what I want. At the time that we get deeper into the search, I can talk in a little bit more detail about it, but ultimately I want someone who is going to come in here and lead these young men to be successful in the classroom and on and off the field.
On the importance of having a winning football program with all the conference realignment going on in the NCAA:
"Football is important in the equation as you can see from the transitions that have been made. Whether the conference realignment issues are out there, as it has the last couple of years, I want to win. Our fans want to win, the team wants to win. This is not being done for conference realignment, this is being done because the time for change is now. I didn't sit back and think well we need to do this for conference realignment purposes, we don't think that way at UConn. We want success and to be exceptional in everything we do. Anything short of that, we will do what's necessary to make a change when necessary.
On if there is enough talent on the team currently to turn the program around:
"I believe the talent is here. We've played in spurts this year. In the Maryland game, I thought we played very well in the first half. In the Michigan game, we played very well the whole game. Maybe I'm biased a little bit, but they're a very good team. I was very pleased with that effort, and I think we have the talent to win. I believe in Coach Weist, coming in with a different style and looking at different things, to change up the perspective and change the focus and get this season back on the right track.
On whether he believes that UConn's offensive line can do a better job blocking defense:
"I have seen these kids block people. I believe in our linemen on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. More importantly, they have to show it. I want somebody that's going to hit somebody across the line and do the things fundamentally that we have to do to be successful. We have great backs and great talent around that offense. We should be much better than we are statistically offensively. From my standpoint, what I look for is what you just said, somebody to line up and put their hand down on the ground and hit the man in front of them. It's a simple game. You beat the man in front of you and create the gaps to have the running back run through, or you hold the defensive players from tackling the quarterback before he throws the ball. What I want is for us to be a fundamentally sound team that does the right things.
"I have gotten to know him and been impressed with him over the last several months. I'd like to bring up our interim head coach, T.J. Weist."
Interim Head Coach T.J. Weist:
"First and foremost, I'd like to introduce my wife Karen of close to 20 years, and my son James. Karen just recently started working in the business school so she's UConn all the way, so is James. I want to say thank you to President Herbst and to Warde for this opportunity to lead this program. It's an honor for me to be a part of this staff, to be a part of this university, to lead this program and to represent this university with class, character and dignity. Our goal for our players number one is to focus on the team. We're going to focus on our team especially in this situation. This is a hard day for all of us, it's a hard day for me because I personally didn't want to have to take over for Coach Pasqualoni. I have a great respect for him, and everything that he has done throughout his career. He gave me this opportunity. Besides the fact of the University of Connecticut, me being at Cincinnati the last three years and facing these teams, I had a respect coming here to this stadium. Besides having that exposure the way Coach Pasqualoni handled himself, handled me, from a family standpoint, from a respect standpoint, it's hard for me to take over for him now. I know it's the best thing for this team, I know the direction that we need. We are going to focus on number one academics. The team is going to be our focus but we're going to focus on academics, on our players getting a degree because that's what they deserve. We're all former football players we all understand it, we all understand how important a degree is for any player, no matter what. Coaches say that all the time but I think it comes down to how much importance we put on it, as a football staff, to make them understand it so they don't walk away and say `I wish I would've put more focus on it.' Because some players, they're college students. So our first focus is still going to be academics. The discipline of our team is not going to change. Our second focus is going to be football. It's going to be winning with passion, winning with energy, winning with enjoying the game of football but working, working to execute and working to win and working to battle every Saturday to win. That will be our focus. It starts today and it will be every day from this point on. Our staff right now is intact, as Warde said; Mike Foley will take over the offensive line duties. And with that, I knew Coach DeLeone before I got here, I knew of his reputation. He's still very respected around the country. I enjoyed working with him, I respect him very much. I want to thank him, from our staff, our program; I want to thank Coach Pasqualoni and Coach DeLeone for their service to this university and to this state. They're both UConn men, and they will be for life. I was impressed with them, even throughout this whole situation, and I will respect them for the rest of my life. They're good friends of mine. This is a great opportunity for us, for this team. In our mind, we're starting over. We're 0-0. We're 0-0 in the conference, it's a great opportunity for us to take this off week and get healthy, focus on the fundamentals we need to get better. Evaluate every facet of everything we're doing. On offense, on defense, on special teams, everything and see what's best, see what fits best with me, what fits best with the direction that we're going in, with our staff, and what this team becomes. We'll look at it every single day. So we'll take this week to refine our fundamentals, get back to playing solid football. Get back to coming across the line and hitting an opponent right in the mouth. And doing it play after play and playing tough football that executes. I can stand up and be as fired up as I want to be, I can be enthusiastic and I can go crazy every single day, I can bring energy every day. But if we don't win, if we don't execute, it doesn't matter what style I have. Now, I'm planning on our style as a coaching staff to win. Everything that we do. But Warde said it exactly right, it's about production, it's about execution, it's about the score at the end of the game. I think we played with great passion against Michigan, and sometimes it's easy to get up for those games. We have to approach every game like that. For us, in Buffalo, Michigan was not an excuse. We can't say we lost the Buffalo game because of the energy from the Michigan game. We have to play every single week, so we're going reset our focus every week to execute on offense and defense and special teams. To execute with passion, with energy, with class, with character, with pride in this university, and come out to work every single day to win and to be successful. Right now our focus is on our team, and beating South Florida. I think our team has energy, I think our team has life right now because things are new. I think right now we have talent, there's no question we have talent. We have to build on our depth, we have to develop some of our young players, we have to get some of our injured players back, which I think we will this week. That will help us to come together more. You watch the film, just like we do, and every single play counts. It counts in the momentum of the football game. That's what we have to teach our players. When they play in practice, that play counts. That could be the play, which, not necessarily wins the game, but could keep a drive going. Keep our offense on the field; keep our defense off the field. Lead us to a drive that leads to a score that helps us win the game. I think that's what we can improve. From that standpoint, I want our fans to continue their support. I think this team and these players deserve the support that they got at our home games and at our last four home games they need it. These players have been through some of the changes they've been through the last four years and now they're going through it again. They deserve that support from our fans, from our alumni. And I'm honored again to stand up here in front of everybody, in front of this alumni group from all around the country, from everybody here in this room, to represent this team, to represent this university, and to represent this athletic department. Last thing, it's time to get to work. I don't need to talk a lot, there's not a lot I need to say, it's time to get back to work. It's time to get back to work with our team, with energy, with passion, with enthusiasm and I told our gays today, we need everyone to be all in. We need everyone to buy in and be a part of want to do, and that is win.
On what will happen with the quarterback situation, specifically Tim Boyle:
"We're open to play him. Right now we're going to sit down with the staff and talk about all our personnel decisions. We haven't made any decisions from that standpoint. We know we have an off week. We're open to doing anything. I'm not going to comment on anything right now until I sit down with our staff and see what's best for us going forward. You get to this situation, when you are 0-4, you have to figure out what is right and what needs to be done to make it right. We need to reevaluate every position and see if we have the right person in each position. That's what we're going to do in the next couple of days. We need to see if we have the right people at the right positions, whether it's at quarterback, on defense, or special teams. We will definitely look at the quarterback position and make a decision."
On improving the offensive line:
We'd like to get Kevin Friend back at right tackle to improve things. I think he gives us solidity within the five that are playing on the first line. We've had two different players that have rotated back and forth. That always happens on the offensive line, you always have guys moving around. You always have guys that step in. But I think we're lacking at depth and lacking at talent execution from that standpoint. Obviously we've had our issues at the protection standpoint. But I think there is a factor to us simplifying things; to going back to what makes the most sense for us with our personnel. So we want to go back to simplifying things. Let's let them play and not think as much, especially on the offensive line. We see so much blitz. The minute you see blitz and don't handle it, you get more blitz. It's what I tell our offense. We have to handle blitz and handle twists because if we don't every team is going to look on the film and do the same thing."
On if he feels prepared for the head coach position:
"I definitely think I'm prepared for this, I'm ready for it and I want it. I told them at first I didn't want it to be in this position to take over for coach Pasqualoni because he's the one who brought me here to lead the offense. There is no question that this team needs solid leadership and the truth is we've had it. We've had it with coach Pasqualoni. I think anytime you have new energy, new life, new direction when things haven't gone your way, it can bring some energy. We need that right now. We haven't had that much. So I think I'm ready for this, I'm ready for this challenge. I'm excited about it and I appreciate it. But I have to get down to work."
On recruiting with uncertainty:
Right now we're honoring the commits that we have. We're going to call them and talk to them to let them know that there is stability. We want our commits and the current players we're recruiting to know that there is stability and know the direction of the program. That will be on one of the first things we talk about as a staff. We need to understand how we're going to going to handle the players and their questions. We're not going to ignore it. We're going to tell them what and how we're doing it. We're going to keep recruiting. Right now this is my job. What happens in December is up to Warde Manuel . This is my job and this team is my focus. The bottom line is to win. There is nothing to disagree with, it's the truth. If I want to be the next head coach to lead this program, then we have to win, and we have to win in a style and manner with character and class. I understand what Warde wants. I think our recruits need to understand that we have to just go out and execute to win."
On what he wants the fans to see when they go out there for the rest of the season:
"What we saw and Michigan, what we saw at that home game, was excitement and energy. The fans aren't going to be excited about not winning or not performing or executing. We understand they want to see plays, they want to see excitement, and they want to see our players playing with energy and passion. We understand. It's not like the last four games we tried to play without passion. It's not like these things are new to our players. We just have to have a little bit of a new direction. We just have to believe a little bit more. I think that's what I'd personally like to see, that type of energy. We want to bring out that energy in them."
On how the coaching staff will have to shuffle around to fill voids:
"We're not sure yet. We're basically losing two coaches. We have to talk about how we're going to replace those two coaches, whether its within our staff and our program or outside our program. We're going to sit down with our guys and look at our options and go from there. I have to be realistic about being the head coach, and responsibilities on that end. I have to put my focus on being the head coach. This team has to be my focus first. I don't have those answers yet."
On being the offensive coordinator for a struggling offense:
"It breaks your heart because we put our heart and soul into this. A lot of people don't understand that we have three coaches on staff that get here at 5 a.m. I walk out the door and coach Pasqualoni is still here at 11 or 11:30 p.m. I take time away from my family over and over again. We put everything we have into this program. It's not just a job or career to us. It's our life. It's a family. These players become our family. This is our family for us, for me. This football team is our family. Everybody has a different definition of family. I'm the youngest of eight; my wife is in the middle of seven. We both understand a family bond. For us in football, it's more of a brotherhood of men. For some players, family is not a positive thing. That's a reality we have to face. We talk about it. We try to teach them, the men that don't have a good family structure; we bring them into our family. We create a family for them out of love and passion and caring whether they do well or not. I think that we will create a family situation and we will make it everything to us. For us coaches, I've been on probably 23 or 24 teams, at eight different universities, and I told our seniors that this is their team and this is their year."
Wide receiver Geremy Davis:
On what the team has to do to right the course:
"We have to start over now. Those first four games are out of the way. We've got conference play so we have to go out there with a new mentality, start over our season right now, starting today, after that meeting just finding that new mentality of let's get moving forward, forget about the past.
On if the team needed a jolt:
"I mean I don't wish anything bad for him for a minute. He was a great guy, great coach, great excellent man but like you said, something had to change and unfortunately that was a man losing his job, I guess that is what comes with it.
On what T.J. Weist will bring as the head coach:
"Him being the receiver's coach, he brings fire to that position, he played that position, he's a good coach, fundamental guy, always going to be great for the team as a whole. And he's so fiery, He's such a player's coach so everyone's going to be so excited. We're going to show his mentality within us.
On how much this hurts:
"Like I said, it's bad. Nobody wishes anything bad on a person. DeLeone and Pasqualoni they both loved their jobs so much. They were here at 5:30 in the morning they didn't leave until 10. They wanted to win. It's just unfortunate
On if this could be a turning point of the season:
"Yeah it can. I mean you can't look back, you can only move forward. We've got eight more games, that was only the first quarter of the season. We've still got eight more games."
On talking to Pasqualoni before he departed:
"Not me personally but he talked to the team as a whole. Pretty much the basics, `if you need anything call me.' He was loyal to us, you can't put that against him. We said we're going to respect the guy for what he did, the environment he tried to build."
Cornerback Byron Jones
On what Coach Pasqualoni said to the team today:
"He basically wished us the best of luck, if you have any problems or concerns, anything you want to talk about, contact him.
On the feeling of the players:
"It's tough to have anyone lose their job like that, especially during the season. He's a good guy, he really loves football and you can tell he's very passionate about it, but at the end of the day it's an unfortunate situation for him and it's out of our control.
On this possibly sparking the team:
"I'm not sure exactly the circumstances but one thing I do know is that we're going into conference play. It's basically a new start for us. The guys are excited about it, we've got a bye week, we've got time to rest up a little bit and get South Florida when they come home.
On if it helped that Pasqualoni addressed the team:
"Yea, it gave us some closure. And it's nice to have someone before they leave come talk to you in a personal manner and wish us the best of luck.
On what Coach Weist can bring to the table:
"Intensity. He's a very intense guy. He's also very passionate about football as well so I think he's going to a lot of good things for the team.
On how Coach Pasqualoni will be remembered:
"As a tough, tough guy. He didn't care how your body felt, he always preached `game tough' on the field and not let little things get to you. Focus on the little things. Just overall toughness. He comes in early, at 7:00 a.m. and doesn't leave until 10 p.m. He puts in the work every day, and that definitely inspired me.
On if there is no quit in the team:
"Yes exactly, nobody's quitting. There's plenty to accomplish. All of our goals are still attainable and it's very important that we collectively get together and turn things around. We really have no other choice.
On ability to rally around Coach Weist:
"Oh certainly. Like I said he's very intense. He understands us, he knows how to motivate us. I think he'll do just fine in the head coaching position."
On how the team will react to being on the field tomorrow:
"Yeah you know as a team we talked as players and we know we have to turn things around, even if Pasqualoni was still here. Unfortunately he's gone, we have a new coach, a fresh start. There's no excuse for us not to turn things around."