UConn shedding 'up-and-coming' label

Connecticut got back to work Saturday to start preparing for the school's first-ever BCS appearance. The benefits of playing in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma haven't really become tangible yet, but head coach Randy Edsall expects next year's recruiting to pick up thanks to the exposure of the game.

Edsall said Monday that this BCS game does something else for the program as well. Forget the criticism of UConn's 8-4 record. This is an image-altering moment for a school that jumped up to the FBS level just nine years ago.

"I don't think anyone is going to say UConn is an up-and-coming program anymore," Edsall said. "Maybe we erased that kind of stigma. This is our fifth bowl now, and we've won two conference championships, with one outright championship, basically. And now we've been to a BCS bowl.

"A lot of schools in our conference haven't been to a BCS bowl or haven't won a conference championship. Maybe that will remove the up-and-coming tag and now people will say, 'Hey, they have a good football team.'"

Edsall's may have overstated that last part, as only two Big East schools -- South Florida and Rutgers -- have now never been to a BCS bowl. But his point remains. The Huskies have been seen as the little team that could for a while; now they are the program that did.

"The story of UConn football was out there, but now it's on more of a national stage than ever before," Edsall said. "You always want to be a household name because that means you've achieved at the highest level. Now we've got ourselves in that situation."

Getting to a BCS game does not automatically translate into guaranteed future success. Louisville won the 2007 Orange Bowl and didn't make it back to the postseason until this year. Cincinnati went to back-to-back BCS games before falling to 4-8 this year.

But from now on, no matter what happens in Glendale, Ariz., Connecticut will be able to say it has played in a BCS game. That it's no longer merely and up-and-comer.

"I feel like we have definitely established ourselves," receiver Kashif Moore said. "We've shared two Big East titles since I've been here and now getting to a BCS game. Coach Edsall has done great things for this program and definitely put us on the map.

"We've proved to the nation and shown that UConn is not just a basketball school."