In dismissing him, UConn did Billy Crocker a favor
The words of UConn football coach Randy Edsall from earlier this season, Sept. 26 on the podium, to the assembled media:
“I’m the head coach. I’m the guy responsible. If things aren’t going the right way, then fire my ass. It’s as simple as that. I’m the leader. And that’s just the way I feel. Our coaches, our players are doing everything that they can do. I’m making the decisions that I think are best for this program. If things don’t measure up, then fire me.”
It made for a good sound bite.
Turns out that’s all it was.
A sound bite.
Edsall’s implication — the responsibility is all his and that there’s an esprit de corps within the program — rings hollow now that a scapegoat has been designated for the 2018 season: Billy Crocker, the defensive coordinator.
Crocker was fired last week after a season that produced one of the worst defenses — statistically and with the eye test — in the history of major college football.
Perhaps the previous sentence says it all. UConn’s 2018 defense — homage to fromage (Swiss variety) — couldn’t stop a gout-laden tortoise. And so congrats to all of you who wanted your pound of flesh. You got it.
It was all Billy Crocker’s fault.
Neat and tidy.
Of course, this is the same Billy Crocker whose final defense at Villanova in 2016 led the nation in fewest points allowed (15) and yards per game (259.9).
Yep. The same Billy Crocker who apparently got dumber on his trip from the Main Line to Storrs, Connecticut.
The same Billy Crocker whose old boss, Andy Talley, a man who has actually won something in college football (a national championship at ’Nova), said of Crocker during the 2018 season, “a brilliant dude. It’s hard to find his skill set: great recruiter with the ability to teach them, too. The word I want to shout to everyone up there is patience. That’s usually a big problem in Division I because nobody there has any. But I can tell you this: You stick with Billy Crocker and you will have a crackerjack defensive coordinator. No question.”
But then, what does a national championship coach know, right?
There are a number of ways to interpret Crocker’s dismissal. Here’s mine: Crocker should be doing a happy dance. At least now he gets to go to a program somewhere else that can win.
Admittedly, getting canned a few days before Christmas wouldn’t qualify as a disguised blessing. Think about it, though: He’s free. Free to go to another program that won’t be plagued by young players who are not physically, emotionally or mentally ready to compete in major college football.
Crocker’s albatross, players that just weren’t ready, was never his fault. Can’t fire them, though. So you make yourself look proactive by finding a scapegoat.
Except that Crocker’s defense wouldn’t be good here for a while. Maybe ever. Because you can’t recruit here. You can’t win here anymore. This isn’t the old days when Louisville and West Virginia were on the schedule every year and most of the seats in the stadium were filled. This is now. Tulane, Tulsa, 25,000 empty seats and the residual effect of Captain Queeg Diaco.
But who has time for the truth when scapegoating is so much more convenient?
I mean, the guy leaves ’Nova with the No. 1 defense in the country. He comes here and has a defense that allowed video game numbers. You think there aren’t reasons for that beyond some of the surface-level idiocy that’s always the rage on Twitter, message boards and other bastions of irrational thought?
Now Crocker gets to go elsewhere. To another program whose path to success is far less complicated than what’s here now. Because let’s face it: This is a dead program walking.
Even if Edsall turns this into a winner again, will it matter? Will enough people care if the Huskies go 8-4 against the vanilla American Athletic Conference? Will enough fans ever truly come back to the Rent?
Even the most ardent Huskmaniac knows the answers to those questions.
Hope Billy Crocker sent his old boss a Christmas card.
He’s never been done a bigger favor.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro