STORRS — More than 1,000 students and fans gathered in front of the
The Huskies, who will kick off the Bob Diaco era Friday night against Brigham Young, are coming off a tumultuous 2013-14 season marred by nine consecutive losses.
"In talking to people and they players, they are excited for this season," said pep rally emcee Joe D'Ambrosio, also
UConn cheerleaders led the crowd in chants, aided by songs from the pep band and performances by the school's dance team.
The event – which lasted about a half hour – also featured several merchandise giveaways and contests, with D'Ambrosio plucking participants out of the crowd before Diaco and the team took center stage at 7 p.m.
Following brief comments from offensive captain Geremy Davis and defensive captain Marquise Vann, Diaco gave the crowd a five-minute speech, encouraging them to show up early and take part in the program's new traditions.
The team will take the field via the student section instead of the tunnel, and move its warm-up from the west end of Rentschler Field to the east end, where the student section is.
The third new tradition comes straight out of Notre Dame's playbook.
"After the game, we all want to sing our awesome fight song as members of the same football family," Diaco said.
Both Diaco and D'Ambrosio encouraged students to arrive at the game early and create an intimidating environment for BYU, a team D'Ambrosio called "a huge favorite."
D'Ambrosio reminded the crowd of comments made by
"We want you to make BYU think what RG3 thought," he said, "that our stadium is the hardest place to play in the country."
UConn freshman Tyrae Sims, one of hundreds of students in attendance, said he's excited to usher in the Diaco era.
"I think UConn football this year has a chance to do something we haven't done in a very long time," Sims said. "The buzz is crazy right now."
Students are also excited about the impact that Diaco has had off the field, said Brianna Soares, a senior from Stratford.