Just when it seemed like all signs were pointing toward Mark Whipple, UConn pulled a classic reverse and announced Paul Pasqualoni as the second head coach in the program’s Division 1-A history. Pasqualoni replaces Randy Edsall, who resigned immediately following the Huskies loss to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1. Edsall left Connecticut after 12 seasons at the helm to take the head post at the University of Maryland.
Like Whipple, the former University of New Haven coach and, most recently, the offensive coordinator at the University of Miami, Pasqualoni has deep roots in the Nutmeg State. A Cheshire native, he attended Penn State and played for the legendary Joe Paterno, making the team as a walk-on. After graduating 1972, he returned to his hometown and served as an assistant coach at Cheshire High for four years before moving down Route 10 to New Haven where he became an assistant at Southern Connecticut State University. In 1982, he was named head coach and athletic director at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.
After five years at top dog at WestConn, and after leading the Colonials into the Division II postseason in 1985, Pasqualoni jumped into the Division I spotlight by becoming linebackers coach at Syracuse. Four years later, he was named to succeed Dick MacPherson as head coach of the Orangemen.
Over the next 14 seasons, Pasqualoni became the second-winningest coach in Syracuse history, guiding the Orangemen to four Big East Conference titles and nine postseason appearances—including two Fiesta Bowls and to an appearance in the Orange Bowl in 1998, the first year of the BCS Bowl Series.
Pasqualoni’s Syracuse teams won 10 games on three different occasions—1991, 1992 and 2001. He also was instrumental in developing NFL talent: seven first-round draft picks and 17 selections in the first three rounds. In Pasqualoni’s 14 seasons in Upstate New York, Syracuse produced at least two NFL draft picks 11 times.
Equally important, Pasqualoni was very successful in recruiting athletes who were successes not just on the field, but in the classroom as well. It was widely reported that Edsall was becoming increasingly frustrated with UConn’s academic standards, which, he felt, put his Huskies at a competitive disadvantage with other Big East schools. Syracuse, meanwhile, had a graduation rate of over 70 percent in 14 years during Pasqualoni’s 18-year stint as an assistant coach and head coach with the Orangemen—including a 100 percent graduation rate in 1994.
He was named the 1992 and 1995 ECAC Coach of the Year for Division I-A, and earned ECAC/Vince Lombardi Foundation Coach of the Year recognition in 1966.
In 2005, Pasqualoni moved to the NFL, serving as tight ends coach and linebackers coach for the Dallas Cowboys until 2007. Next, he moved to Miami where he was defensive coordinator for the Dolphins in 2008 and 2009, before returning to “Big D” as defensive coordinator last season.
Pasqualoni, 61, has earned a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education at Penn State, and a master of science degree in physical education and human performance at Southern Connecticut State. He and his wife, the former Jill Fleischman, have two sons, Dante Paul and Tito Lucian, and a daughter, Cami Mae.
“We are very proud to welcome Paul Pasqualoni to the UConn family and also bring him back home to his native Connecticut,” said UConn Athletic Director Jeffrey Hathaway. “Paul brings an outstanding coaching background to UConn on the collegiate, professional and high school level. He also is a man of strong character and integrity and we look forward to him developing our football student-athletes in the classroom, on the field and as part of the community.”