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UConn's Manuel feels the frustration of fans

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published September 19. 2013 4:00AM

Athletic director Warde Manuel has heard the rumblings of discontent from the UConn football fan base.

He understands their frustration.

The Huskies are off to a disappointing 0-2 start after consecutive home losses to Towson and Maryland.

Now, 15th-ranked Michigan (3-0) is coming to sold out Rentschler Field on Saturday (8 p.m., Chs. 6, 8). It will be a showcase game for the Huskies, who are playing on national television for the first time this season.

"It's an important game whether we are on national TV or not on national TV," Manuel said Wednesday. "The team has had two losses. The coaches are disappointed in the performance and the outcome. It's important for them and what they're trying to do for the season to come out and play hard and play strong and play better than we did the first two games.

"It adds a lot of value that it's on national TV and we have the exposure. But I think in that locker room and amongst those coaches, they understand the importance of elevating the performance against a great team coming in."

During Wednesday's conference call with Connecticut media members, Manuel was asked whether Paul Pasqualoni is on shaky ground and if he remains committed to his head coach for the remainder of the season.

In the third year of a five-year contract, Pasqualoni owns a 10-16 record (he was 5-7 each of his first two seasons). Disgruntled fans booed the Huskies during their season opening loss to Towson.

Manuel says his preference is to wait until the season ends to evaluate his coaches. But he added that he reserves the right to change his mind should circumstances change.

"I evaluate coaches on an ongoing basis," Manuel said. "We'll see at the end of the year where we are. I understand the fan base's frustration. I'm frustrated. I think the team is frustrated and the coaches are frustrated with where we are right now and they're working hard to make it get better.

"So that's our focus right now and that's my focus. But I definitely understand why the fans are frustrated. There is frustration here, but there also is a lot of hard work being done by the student-athletes and the coaches to get us on the winning side of the ledger."

Manuel, who graduated from Michigan and played for legendary coach Bo Schembechler before a neck injury ended his playing career, is looking forward to Saturday's game.

He remains in touch with his Michigan friends.

"This is a big game for UConn regardless of whether or not I played at Michigan," Manuel said. "It's a great opportunity for our team and our fans to play against one of the top teams in the country, the program that has won the most football games at this level in the country.

"It does add something special that is it my alma mater in that I know many of the people in that program for a long time. To have them come here and play against UConn while I'm here, it is special to me and a special experience for me and my family and my friends.

"That being said, I've taken a lot of calls since the summer. I've been talking a lot about the game and obviously talking up my team and what we plan on doing on Saturday night."

g.keefe@theday.com

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