Bob Diaco, during his brief time at UConn, was one of the best motivators I’ve ever witnessed in college football. He compared his players to Batman, he said that his program had turned into a “fish cake,” and he promised an undefeated season after going 2-10 the previous year. While inspiring, Bob’s enthusiasm added up to a three-year record of 11-26, and eventually led to him being fired this past December.
While Bob may be out of Storrs, his legacy will remain in the form of The Civil ConFLiCT Trophy. The trophy, for those unaware, ranks somewhere between the t-shirt you get at Buffalo Wild Wings for eating 12 of their hottest wings and the Stanley Cup my friends and I made out of cereal bowls and tinfoil when we were twelve in terms of value. It is a product of UConn lacking a rival when Diaco first arrived. For reasons I’m unaware of, Bob chose a rival over 1,200 miles away, the University of Central Florida. From there, a trophy was made in 2015 and the name was personally chosen by Coach Diaco, making sure that the FL for Florida and CT for Connecticut were capitalized. His team was notified that it had a new rivalry on their schedule and UConn’s social media was quick to announce that the rivalry was officially off and running. The only problem was that UCF had no idea that the rivalry existed.
When asked, UCF’s athletic department didn’t have any idea that there was a budding rivalry. UCF coach, George O’Leary, ignored the unveiling of the trophy and had no comment on the teams’ upcoming game. UCF even released an official statement that they “did not have any involvement in the creation of a trophy or an annual rivalry game with UConn.” When asked about why UCF wouldn’t acknowledge the rivalry, Diaco proclaimed that “They don’t get to say whether they are our rival or not.” Thus, the most forced rivalry in college sports was born.
When UConn won in the first year of the trophy’s existence, they posed with the trophy on the field and the trophy was brought to the post-game press conference. However, when UCF won last year, the trophy was left on the field, untouched by UCF players or coaches. While this may have been an attempt to devalue the rivalry, which was already a tough task, I would say that UCF’s active ignorance only makes the rivalry better. But with the coach Diaco being the main proponent (if not the only proponent) for this rivalry, the fate of the trophy is in serious jeopardy.
My guess is that Twitter won’t let this rivalry die. UConn has always had a strong social media presence, and this rivalry is about all that UConn football has right now. As for Bob Diaco, he is set to become the highest-paid assistant in Nebraska’s football history. He will earn $825,000 in his first year with the team, and his salary will grow by $25,000 the following year. I’m predicting that he’ll get another chance at being a head coach, and that he’ll pull off an upset win in his first rivalry week back. Because if anyone knows rivalries, it’s Bob Diaco.