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Non-committal Edsall could be top Syracuse candidate

11/16/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Syracuse fans are relieved that the Greg Robinson era finally reached its conclusion Sunday afternoon. Now it's time for Connecticut fans to be nervous.

Unless he definitively puts the idea to rest, UConn head coach Randy Edsall will continue to be mentioned as the frontrunner as the Orange search to replace Robinson. Edsall makes perfect sense on many levels: He played at Syracuse, spent 11 years there as an assistant coach and even met his wife there. Plus, he's a terrific coach who has built a winner from scratch at Connecticut, where he is about to lead the Huskies to their second straight bowl appearance for the first time ever.

The Syracuse Post-Standard has reported that Edsall is "very interested" in the Orange vacancy. Edsall, who signed a contract extension at UConn this offseason, has had several opportunities to squelch rumors about his possible candidacy at Syracuse the past few weeks. But not once has he come out and said something to the effect of, "I'm not leaving UConn" or "I have no interest in that job." Edsall had his usual day-after gameday conference call with reporters on Sunday, and here's what he said when asked about Syracuse, according to the Hartford Courant's Desmond Conner:

"I don't talk about personnel issues and never will," Edsall said. "I'm just concerned about coaching this football team here and making them better and just getting focused for South Florida and that's it."

Syracuse would have to throw a lot of money Edsall's way. He's making $1.2 million per season and has a $1.5 million buyout in his contract. But Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross is said to have raised a lot of funds for this move, which will be just as important for his own career after he botched the first football hire.

Other names you'll hear prominently in this search include East Carolina's Skip Holtz, another former UConn head coach, and ex-Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin, who has close ties to Gross going back to their days at Southern Cal. Former Syracuse players have lobbied hard for Florida assistant head coach Steve Addazio, who once served as an Orange assistant. Buffalo coach Turner Gill and Illinois assistant Mike Locksley could also find themselves in the mix. Gross told reporters Sunday that head coaching experience is not a must.

The Syracuse job is not as attractive as it used to be. The school's football facilities are not considered among the best in the Big East. The emergence of Rutgers and UConn have eroded the team's once-exclusive recruiting base. High school players are barely old enough to remember when the Carrier Dome used to pack in the fans. The often-dreary weather around campus is a tough sell when kids have so many more options these days. And a major rebuilding effort will be needed to get the program competitive again.

Going back to Syracuse wouldn't be a lateral move for Edsall at this point; it would be a step down. But until he definitively says no, Huskies fans will have to nervously hope he stays put.