The UConn Huskies are ranked 16th in the nation in the Associated Press poll released Oct. 28, and a lot of people are expressing surprise: has basketball season started already?
The short answer is yes. Basketball season began with a preseason men’s game against Assumption College Nov. 1. The long answer is that this is about football.
At the time of going to press, before the Nov. 3 home game against Rutgers, UConn Football was 7-1 overall, 3-0 in the Big East.
While the football team’s first national ranking is significant and unexpected – given that the Huskies were picked to finish sixth in the Big East (they currently lead the league) – what may be most striking is the company they’re now keeping.
Their ranking in the Associated Press poll places them ahead of annual football powerhouses from the universities of Alabama and Florida, two spots behind the University of Texas, and only one slot behind Big 10 power Michigan. Husky fans are ecstatic.
“The national ranking by our football team is a great indication of the hard work that all our players have put into this season,” says Randy Edsall, head football coach.
“Since the end of last season, they have shown dedication during spring practice, preseason drills, and now during the season. The ranking is also a tribute to our assistant coaches, support staff, and so many people who worked to get UConn football to Division I-A status.”
The football team isn’t the only fall athletic program gunning for a Big East title. Entering the Nov. 3-4 weekend, the men’s soccer team (14-2-1/7-2-1), ranked first in the nation; the women’s soccer team (12-4-1/8-2-1), ranked 18th; and the field hockey team ranked 6th (18-2/5-1). Each harbored hopes of Big East and national championships.
Those teams, however, are perennial contenders, while the football team is a relatively new member of NCAA football’s premier division.
The Huskies reached the top 20 in just over five years, faster than all but one team in history, Marshall, which joined Division I-A in 1997 and was ranked in a little over two years.
| Fans carry Jonathan the Husky, while celebrating on the field after the football game against the University of South Florida at Rentschler Field Oct. 27.
|Photo by Peter Morenus
“We are thrilled with the success that all our Husky teams are having this fall,” says Jeffrey Hathaway, director of athletics.
“The national rankings they’ve earned are a credit to the hard work and dedication of our student-athletes, coaches, and support staff. The Division of Athletics is committed to excellence in the classroom, on the fields of play, and in the community through our outreach programs.”
Even Gov. M. Jodi Rell weighed in.
“The big dogs have hit the big time,” Rell said, after the football rankings were released.
“[UConn Coach Randy] Edsall and his team have made all of Connecticut proud. I know the season is not over yet, but the team, the University, and state residents should celebrate this tremendous win and first ever national ranking,” she said, referring to UConn’s 22-15 victory over then 11th-ranked University of Southern Florida.
UConn’s successes come during a banner year for New England sports fans.
The Boston Red Sox are world champions, the New England Patriots are 8-0 are seemingly unstoppable, and the Boston Celtics are ready to embark upon a season of hope, with two new stars added to an already talented team, including former UConn star Ray Allen.
So buckle your seat belts, UConn.
The day a lot of people have been waiting for has arrived.