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Know your enemy: UConn edition

"Friends come and go but enemies accumulate." —Arthur Bloch

Kye-uconn

You know the drill by now. Let's do this thing.

Ten things you might not know about UConn or their Superfluous "C" State

10) Storrs, Connecticut—home of the University of Connecticut (hereafter known as "UConn") resides within the town of Mansfield, CT (guessing some sort of Vatican/Rome situation or at the very least a Garden City/Boise situation) which was incorporated in 1702 from the town of Windham, making Storrs the Russian nesting doll of U.S. cities. Not much of note really happened in the town of 26k, but it was home to the first silk mill in the U.S.. Yeah, I said "was"...sorry, thrill seekers.

9) UConn was founded in 1881 as Storrs Agricultural School (3 guesses as to their first sports nicknames) and was named not after the town, but the land donors and benefactors—brothers Charles and Augustus Storrs, who kicked in $5,000, a Civil War orphanage, and 170 acres of land to get the ball rolling. The school was initially men only, likely because of the Cooties outbreak of '83, but women were admitted by 1893, just as the school changed its name to the much more sophisticated Storrs Agricultural College. The school would go through 2 more name changes (Connecticut Agricultural College, Connecticut State College) before finally landing on the one they stuck with, The University of Connecticut, in 1939.

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Look what $5,000 dollars used to buy.

8) UConn played their first year of collegiate football in 1896. The coachless squad went a respectable 5-3 but only played 5 different teams in the 8-game schedule. Willmantic HS, Willmantic YMCA and Middletown HS each got a rubber match that first year as Connecticut slogged through their inaugural campaign. It wasn't until 1898 that the squad got a proper coach, E.S. Mansfield (no relation)...who promptly led them to a winless season. They were close to re-hiring "no coach" for the 1899 season, but T.D. Knowles won out instead and brought the team a bit of cohesion as they went 6-2 in his first year. Knowles stuck around for 3 seasons before turning the reins over to "Captain" E.O. Smith who helmed the squad for just 4 years, but was the longest tenured coach at the institution until 1923 when Summer Dole took over and led the team for 11 years, then gave way to J.O. Christian who headed up the show for 15. Christian is still the longest tenured coach in the school's history but not the winningest...that title belongs to Randy Edsall—who racked up 74 victories between 1999 and 2010. If you're looking for the joke in this one, that "Captain E.O." bit was it.

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No man nor beast can stop the flying wedge.

7) Founded as an agricultural college, you probably guessed that early UConn squads played under the moniker "Aggies", a lazy nickname that 90% of the farm schools adopted in the early days. It was in 1933 when the school took on it's penultimate name of Connecticut State College, that the "Aggies' became the "Huskies". One story about how this came about, as Huskies aren't really a native breed of Connecticut, goes that the use of the contraction "UConn" brought about the name change since "UConn" and "Yukon" are homophones (stop snickering). Huskies are native to the Yukon territory and BAM! there's your connection. The other story, which is far more plausible and boring, is that the students simply voted on the Husky after becoming covetous of other area school's live mascots. The live husky mascot's name is "Jonathan" after Connecticut's revolutionary war governor Jonathan Trumbull, who had fleas. Proving that all live school mascots must have a tragic history...the first "Jonathan" was hit by a car a few days before his "naming" but soldiered on and attended a few basketball games before he passed. Jonathan is currently in his 15th iteration but he dreams of just retiring to a secluded New England town and writing the great American novel.

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Jonathan, to arms!

6) UConn has never really been known as an offensive juggernaut, but in 1949 they hit the perfect storm of awesome and a potentially drunk coach J.O. Christian when they lined up against Newport NTS. UConn went just 4-4-1 that year and had tied Maine 12-12 the week before Newport rolled into Storrs to take their medicine—a 125-0 beatdown at the hands of the suddenly less-than-Christian coach Christian. In almost 120 years of football, UConn hasn't once come within 49 points of that output, but they've got the benchmark proving it can be done. By the way, the "NTS" on Newport might just stand for "Note To Self" and that note? "Don't travel to Storrs when Coach Christian is feeling fighty".

5) UConn seems to have churned out an unusually high number of puppeteers as their list of distinguished alumni contains at least four (Joshua Wiley, Brad Williams, Jennifer Barnhart and Pam Arciero). Of the four, only Arciero has been called up to the Big Leagues as it were as she portrays Oscar the Grouches long-suffering common-law wife Grundgetta on Sesame Street. Personally, I think the greatest puppet the UConn puppeteers ever brought to life was fellow alum Ron Palilo, who played Horshack on Welcome Back Kotter. He seemed so lifelike.

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Husky magic.

4) UConn's football stadium, Rentschler Field (capacity 40,642), is not on campus but rather in East Hartford...about a half hour away. The field opened in 2003 and is named after Frederick Brant Rentschler, who founded the aircraft arm of the company Pratt & Whitney, whose company airfield had previously occupied the site. Frederick Rentschler was an American aircraft engine designer and aviation engineer who had a hand in the success of early aviation pioneers like Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and Rocket J. Squirrel. Rentschler even appeared on the cover of TIME magazine in 1951, but failed to make the cover of Teen Beat's "Hunks of Aviation Engineering" special edition.

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Gentlemen, start their engines.

3) A UConn tradition unlike any other was the (wisely discontinued) "Horse Rush". It probably began in the 1890s when the life-expectancy wasn't overly high anyway, but the event is described thusly:

"It was a senior-junior tournament, with a single senior - a single mounted knight - riding surrounded by the senior class as foot-soldiers and the whole infantry class of juniors running to pull him down...the route was from a barn on Storrs Road going 300 yards up "The Hill" to the Main Building  The object for seniors was to get the horse and rider there, and for juniors to prevent it."

Sounds like  a neck-snapping good time!

2) UConn football's biggest historical rival is UMass and the teams have played each other 72 times since 1897 (with UMass leading the series by a razor-thin 2 game margin). The recently rekindled rivalry is played in what is known as the "U game", but they don't play for a trophy. This must end. Here are my suggestions for the UConn-UMass annual rivalry trophy:

  • The Chowdah Bowl - A Chrome Bowl filled with piping hot clam chowder (NO, not Manhattan style)
  • The Butter Churn - A cast-iron replica butter churn that commemorates the colonial past of New England.
  • The Bucket of Oats - It's just a bucket of oats...why does everything have to have a meaning?
  • The Silver Cudgel - A silver (maybe plated nickel) club commemorating one that was famously swung by an innkeeper during the Boston Massacre

1) One player the Broncos won't have to contend with tomorrow is quarterback Johnny McEntee. McEntee was a true dual-threat QB for UConn, in that he was an equal threat to doors AND garbage cans.