STORRS, Conn. -- Maryland football coach Randy Edsall expressed some regret Tuesday over the way he left the University of Connecticut more than a year and a half ago without saying goodbye to his players.
Edsall had just led the Huskies in a 48-20 loss to Oklahoma in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, the program's first BCS bowl game, when he took a plane to Maryland for his job interview rather than fly home with his team.
Many of the players learned of his departure from the program from the media or through text messages from family and friends.
"If I could do it over again, I wish that there was some way that I could see the players and tell them face-to-face that I was going to leave and come to Maryland," Edsall told the Connecticut media on Tuesday. "But do to the circumstances surrounding that, I wasn't able to do that and that's something that I've gotta live with."
Connecticut (1-1) visits Maryland (2-0) on Saturday in what will be the first meeting between Edsall and his former players, who have not forgotten how he left.
"It's not going to be hard to get fired up for that one, definitely," defensive tackle Ryan Wirth said. "That's about it. That's all I'm going to say about that."
UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said he hasn't issued a gag order on the topic, but has cautioned his players not to get involved in anything that could be a distraction.
"If you're distracted, I don't know how you're functioning at a high level," he said. "All I said is, `Conserve your energy, you're going to need it. Focus on the game."
Many players said they are trying to do just that, especially coming off a 10-7 loss to another ACC school, North Carolina State, at home last Saturday.
"It's been a couple of years and I've been playing for coach Pasqualoni for the past two years," senior cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson said. "It's one of those things where I don't know how it's going to be. Yes, we're practicing hard this week, but that's because it's a game we need to win."
Edsall became coach at Connecticut in 1999 and took UConn from what was then called Division I-AA (now FCS) to the Division I level. He won a share of Big East titles in 2007 and 2010 and he teams earned five bowl bids going 3-2 in those games.
"I have nothing but great memories and great times at the university and what we were able to do," he said.
Senior defensive end Trevardo Williams, who started in that Fiesta Bowl, said there is not much animosity left over Edsall's departure. He said most players understand it was a business decision, and not personal, though he acknowledged players were not happy with how he handled his departure.
Edsall said he hasn't had a chance to talk with a lot of his former players since the Fiesta Bowl, because of NCAA rules. He said he hopes do that after Saturday's game.
Williams said he won't have much to say to his former coach.
"I would say, `Hello, how are you doing?' And, `It was a great game, good luck on the upcoming season;' and `Thank you for recruiting me," he said.