Eleven years ago, the University of Connecticut still competed in the Colonial Athletic Association. A Division I-AA conference.
Now, the Huskies are in the BCS.
Scheduled for a trip to the Fiesta Bowl to face Oklahoma, one of the powerhouses of college football.
UConn, known for its women's and men's basketball, is now constructing a football program that's far from a finished product â€” but made astonishing progress in just a decade under coach Randy Edsall.
â€œWhen I got here, I wanted to build a program that would stand the test of time,â€ Edsall said. â€œBut it's hard to think of all the things we've accomplished in such a short period of time.â€
A few weeks into the season, however, it seemed like the last place UConn would end up would be a BCS bowl. Two weeks after dropping the opener at Michigan, the Huskies were stomped by Temple, 30-16. Following losses at Rutgers and Louisville, UConn's bowl hopes altogether were flailing.
But the Huskies turned a corner on Oct. 29, coming from behind to knock off Big East favorite West Virginia in overtime, 16-13.
UConn hasn't lost since, winning five in a row, including Saturday night's 19-16 victory at South Florida to earn a share of the Big East championship. The Huskies earned the Big East's automatic BCS berth through a tiebreaker, having defeated both West Virginia and Pittsburgh.
â€œAfter our players got slapped in the face by Louisville, losing 26-0, they had had enough. And they went out and started doing it ever since the West Virginia game,â€ said Edsall whose Huskies are the fourth team ever to qualify for a BCS bowl with four losses (the other three were from the ACC).
The Huskies have had to overcome more than just a lack of football tradition. In October of last season, starting junior cornerback Jasper Howard was fatally stabbed outside a university-sponsored dance.
UConn lost three straight games after Howard's death, but rallied to win the next four, capped by a 20-7 win over South Carolina in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
â€œIt says a lot about the young people in our program to overcome the adversity that we had this year, but also the adversity of a year ago with what happened to Jasper during the season,â€ Edsall said. â€œOur young men have learned a lot of lessons in a little over a year that have made them mentally tougher and understand how important life is, how important a team is and how important working together can bring out the best in everybody involved.â€
UConn may not have the talent OU does. Probably doesn't have the talent of conference rivals West Virginia, Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.
But the Huskies play with a great deal of mental toughness, have a terrific turnover margin and claim one of the nation's top placekickers in Dave Teggart, who nailed a game-winning 52-yard field goal with 17 seconds to play to defeat South Florida.
UConn also boats running back Jordan Todman, who is second in the nation in rushing, averaging 143 yards per game. Edsall says Todman, who should win the Big East Offensive Player of the Year award, embodies the attitude of the rest of UConn's team.
â€œHe is a team guy,â€ Edsall said. â€œIt's not about him as an individual and how many yards he gets. He's a guy that's going to go out there and compete hard on every play. And he has a heart so big he wants to do whatever he can to help his team win.â€