University of Connecticut Director of Athletics Warde Manuel announced Monday a change at the top of the UConn football program, relieving head coach Paul Pasqualoni of his responsibilities and assigning offensive coordinator T.J. Weist to take the top job on an interim basis.
“I am making this change in our football coaching staff now as we approach the conference season, to see an improved performance from our football program,” Manuel said. “I am disappointed in the record of our team thus far, but I am confident that our coaching staff and student-athletes will continue to work hard to improve, and that will be reflected on the field of play as we start our American Athletic Conference season.”
Pasqualoni arrived at UConn in 2011, and leaves with a record of 10-18. In addition to his departure, offensive line head coach George DeLeone has also been relieved of his responsibilities.
“A decision has been made and it’s now time to move on to a stronger future that starts today,” said University President Susan Herbst. “What cannot be lost here is how incredibly proud we are of our student-athletes. They are outstanding young men in the midst of a very tough season. Being a Division I athlete and a student is an enormous challenge, and we know how hard they are working and how deeply they care about succeeding for their university.”
Interim head coach Weist, who arrived at UConn this year, is a 25-year coaching veteran, most recently as wide receivers coach at the University of Cincinnati, which won two Big East championships during his tenure.
“I am very pleased to elevate T.J. to our interim head coaching position,” said Manuel. “T.J. will bring energy and enthusiasm to our football team as we embark on our American Athletic Conference schedule. T.J. will provide stability to our football student-athletes during this time of transition, and will also effectively oversee all elements of our football program, including game preparation, classroom success, and recruiting.”
Manuel said Weist will be the coach for the remainder of the season, as the process for selecting a permanent head coach gets under way.
A native of Bay City, Mich., Weist (pronounced Weest), played as a wide receiver at the University of Alabama, where he participated in three postseason bowl games.
Weist, who spoke with his team early Monday, said he wants the players to use the opportunity to refocus on the fundamentals.
“In our minds, we’re 0-0,” he said. “We’re starting conference play at 0-0.”
Weist, who has mentored 16 wide receivers who made it to the National Football League, is noted for the passion he brings to coaching.
“I’m ready for this challenge,” he said. “I’m excited about it, and I appreciate it. But the reality is, I’ve got to get down to work.”
The Huskies don’t play again until Oct. 12, when they face the University of South Florida at Rentschler Field.
“What this team needs now as much as anything is the support of Husky fans everywhere,” Herbst said. “As we saw at our last home game, the amazing energy and highly-charged spirit of our fans breathes life into this team, and that must continue and be repeated again and again. There is no substitute. Support from fans lifts players up and keeps a team going. It is essential to competing and achieving the levels of excellence we demand at UConn.”