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UConn chooses Cowboys interim DC Pasqualoni as coach

Former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni is heading back to the Big East Conference as football coach at Connecticut.

UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway announced the hiring Thursday and said a news conference introducing Pasqualoni, who grew up in Cheshire, would be held a 12:30 p.m. ET Friday.

"We are very proud to welcome Paul Pasqualoni to the UConn family and also bring him back home to his native Connecticut," Hathaway said in a statement. "Paul brings an outstanding coaching background to UConn on the collegiate, professional and high school level. He also is a man of strong character and integrity and we look forward to him developing our football student-athletes in the classroom, on the field and as part of the community."

Pasqualoni had been the Dallas Cowboys' interim defensive coordinator, taking the position in November after the firing of coach Wade Phillips, who also handled the defensive duties.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett both released statements Thursday praising Pasqualoni.

"He has everything that a college program would want from a leadership perspective," Garrett said. "He knows the game, and he is very effective at coaching and teaching every aspect of the game. We wish nothing but the best for Coach P. and his family. I know our players and his fellow coaches here in Dallas will miss him very much."

The Cowboys have been linked to many candidates for their defensive coordinator position. Outgoing Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will interview for it, a league source told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora on Thursday. senior writer Steve Wyche cited a league source Monday in reporting that the Cowboys could consider the San Francisco 49ers' Greg Manusky and Stanford's Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator candidates. However, it appears Manusky will be hired by the San Diego Chargers.

NFL Network insider Michael Lombardi reported Sunday that Todd Bowles likely will be the Cowboys' next defensive coordinator, although Miami Dolphins counterpart Mike Nolan would be Garrett's first choice.

The Dallas Morning Newsreported Thursday that the Cowboys received permission to interview Pittsburgh secondary coach Ray Horton, who played for the Cowboys from 1989 to 1992.

Pasqualoni, 61, replaces Randy Edsall, who took the head-coaching job at Maryland after leading UConn to an 8-5 season and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl, where the Huskies lost to Oklahoma 48-20.

Edsall coached for 12 years at UConn, leading the team from Division I-AA into the Big East, where his teams won a share of the conference championship in 2007 and this past season.

Since becoming a full Division I-A (now Football Bowl Subdivision) team in 2002, Connecticut is 65-46.

Pasqualoni was chosen over former University of Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who had been in negotiations for the job earlier this week, according to a source in the athletic department.

That person spoke on condition of anonymity, because he wasn't authorized to release the information.

Pasqualoni compiled a 107-59-1 record in 14 years at Syracuse before being fired after the 2004 season. He took the Orange to nine bowls, won three consecutive Big East championships from 1996 to 1998 and shared the title with West Virginia in 2004.

Pasqualoni began his coaching career in 1972 at Cheshire High school, his alma mater. He also was the head coach and athletic director at Western Connecticut from 1982 to 1986, leading his 1985 team to a 10-2 record and a spot in the NCAA Division III playoffs.

Pasqualoni has served as a defensive coach in the NFL with the Cowboys and Dolphins.

"He is a leader, a great communicator, a dedicated professional and a winner," Jerry Jones said. "We are grateful to Paul for his contributions to the Dallas Cowboys and we wish him the very best with this new challenge."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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