Former UConn quarterback Dan Orlovsky said that he wasn’t aware he was being formally interviewed by a reporter who published a story Friday in which Orlovsky was quoted as calling UConn athletic director David Benedict “kind of a schmuck” and suggesting baseball coach Jim Penders could be his replacement.
In the report from Metro, a company with publications in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, Orlovsky, who has been making the rounds at the Super Bowl in Minneapolis this week, is critical of the level of play he saw from the UConn men’s basketball team when he attended the Huskies’ matchup with old Big East rival Syracuse on Dec. 5, bemoaning the program’s struggles to land recruits.
Orlovsky confirmed he attended the game but insisted his concerns were voiced in solidarity with coach Kevin Ollie and the players.
“It’s more having empathy towards those guys and it’s not a knock,” Orlovsky told The Courant’s UConn Insider podcast. “Coach [Jim] Calhoun is a freaking legend. And, you know, I experienced it. Coach [Randy] Edsall got to walk into my living room and say, ‘Hey we’re going to play in the Big East. Against Virginia Tech and Miami and Syracuse.’
“And now he has to walk in and go, ‘Hey we’re going to play against Tulsa and SMU. It’s nothing against those schools. There just aren’t kids dreaming of doing that. So now Kevin Ollie is dealing with the same thing. … It’s the conference thing. It’s fallen so far. It’s crazy how far it’s fallen.
“I can’t imagine how hard it is to go punch for punch with those other schools with the conference behind them. What’s the spin? How do you spin it? Back in the day it was amazing, it was such a selling point.”
Orlovsky is quoted in Metro as saying, “The AD is kind of a schmuck.”
He continues, “The whole program is headed in the wrong direction. Rumor has it that they're looking at bringing in [baseball coach] Jim Penders as AD. That's the rumor, but we'll see. They have to do something soon."
The Metro reporter, Matthew Burke, is a UConn alum who said he spoke with Orlovsky while the former quarterback was preparing for a radio interview on Radio Row, the area set up at the Mall of America during Super Bowl week where radio hosts from across the country host their shows.
“I explained to him where I was working now — I'm a UConn grad so I used to interview him back in the day — asked him if he was done playing football and all that, and then we started talking about the state of UConn athletics,” Burke said in an email. “Let's just say I didn't have to pry. He was very open with his thoughts. I'm sure he regrets using the word "schmuck," but that's what he said.”
Reached by phone Friday, a representative from Benedict’s office said the athletic director was aware of the report but declined to comment.
Penders was asked if there was anything to the idea of becoming athletic director and he responded via text, “nothing at all.”
Penders is held in high esteem at UConn and many have suggested he’d make a good AD, but he has not expressed interest. He served on search committees for past hires. Benedict also recently had his contract restructured, which saw his salary increase, his potential bonus compensation knocked down and additional deferred compensation if he remains continuously employed through the end of his contract in 2021.
Orlovsky had expressed interest in the UConn football team’s vacant offensive coordinator position in January. John Dunn was hired about a week later.
Of fans promoting him online, Orlovsky said, "Surely, it's flattering. I also know there's a realistic side and there's the aspect that college football is different than the NFL.”
Orlovsky broke down the Super Bowl matchup on the latest episode of the UConn Insider podcast below:
Staff writer Dom Amore contributed to this report.
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