In the lead-up to last weekend’s showdown with conference rival UCF, UConn head coach Bob Diaco did not seem to want to talk about the Civil Conflict rivalry he created in the summer of 2015. He dismissed the rivalry as a factor in the game and moved quickly away from the topic to answer more questions about his team.
After losing 24-16 to the Knights at Rentschler Field, with UCF adding insult to injury by declining to take the trophy Diaco commissioned for the rivalry, the talkative head coach had plenty to say at his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon.
“Very disappointing to me,” Diaco said of UCF’s decision not to take the trophy after the game. “It just seemed like a fun intercollegiate piece to a game, but apparently not. So, I’m good on it, it’s gone. I got other ideas too.”
Diaco’s answer to the trophy question came after a lengthy monologue in which he explained, at length, his decision to create the Civil Conflict rivalry and the process by which he executed its creation. The rivalry has received negative media coverage from national outlets criticizing its lack of both historic and regional relevance and its inorganic inception.
“I went to exactly who I needed to talk to, here and there, about what my intention was. To add some intrigue, to add some excitement, to a game [between UConn and UCF] that would otherwise have no intrigue or excitement,” Diaco said.
Diaco explained that he put the process in motion at American Athletic Conference yearly meetings in which each of the league’s coaches were present, before returning to Storrs and having internal discussions. He said he had detailed conversations with “at least 12 to 14 people” and made plenty of phone calls. He took credit for the idea, but emphasized that he was not the only force behind the Conflict’s creation.
“Was it my idea? Yes. Did I then do the work to go activate it and make it a thing? Yes. Did I do it unilaterally? Absolutely not. Ridiculous,” Diaco said.
While Diaco did take steps to remove himself from the Conflict conversation, he also highlighted what he considered its accomplishments. He suggested that the rivalry’s intrigue brought the nation’s glare upon the UConn-UCF match-up, and provided a sorely needed boost of attention for a conference that features quality teams, but not many links between them.
“Has [the Civil Conflict] gotten more copy and conversation that the [American Athletic Conference] championship game a year ago? So Houston played Navy in the [American] championship game. Was it covered nationally as widely as our rivalry, and our trophy game?”
“So I don’t really understand why it was a bad idea, I really don’t,” Diaco said.
While the Civil Conflict rivalry appears to be dead, he still considered it a success.
“I think the main question is: did it work. Did it work? Unequivocally. You couldn’t possibly look at all the facts, based on all the copy and conversation, and say it didn’t. You would have had to have your head in the sand.”