It’s been about one year since UConn football Head Coach, Bob Diaco, completely made up a rivalry out of thin air. For the self-proclaimed “Civil Conflict,” Diaco even made a trophy for the football match between UConn and UCF; and I’ll bet everything I have that Diaco absolutely took money straight out of his own pocket to make that trophy.
— UConn Football (@UConnFootball) June 1, 2015
There have been plenty of things written about how insane it is that Diaco really thinks rivalries are something that can be manufactured. But what if the creation of the Conflict was actually an elaborate cry for help in the name of UConn athletics?
Yeah, you read that right. What if Bob Diaco knew exactly what he was doing when creating the Conflict?
Now, believe me, knowing Bob Diaco, the likelihood of this actually being a possibility is virtually nonexistent. But let’s speculate for a second.
Especially in light of the Big 12 news (I don’t think the Big 12 would have been a good fit for UConn anyways, but that’s an entirely different story), it looks like UConn is going to be stuck in the American for a while.
This, of course, is all kinds of awful. There is virtually no competition for any sport in this conference. Sure, Cincinnati is a good rivalry (a REAL rivalry) in soccer, football and basketball, and SMU is always good for some competition in men’s hoops. But that’s about it. None of these schools have any kind of history with UConn. Certainly not the kind of storied rivalry that Syracuse of Louisville brought to sports fans, anyway.
UConn has only been playing football against UCF for three years. Rivalries, in my opinion, must follow at least one of three criteria: Long time history, proximity or circumstance. The perfect example that covers all three of these requirements is the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry: The teams have been playing for over 100 seasons, which more than covers the history portion (the Curse of the Bambino, anyone?) The teams are close to each other geographically, which makes it easy for fans to travel. Finally, the teams both play in the same division, so they are always playing important games against each other.
This does not exist for UConn and UCF. There is no history. There is no competition. There is nothing incredibly crucial at stake for either of these teams. It is literally the poster child of an average sporting event.
This holds true for the rest of the conference, with the exception being UConn-Cincinnati. I really believe these two schools have a nice rivalry in terms of context, and to a certain extent, proximity. Aside from Cincy, though, not much else is there. For any school, really. You don’t exactly hear stories about UCF and USF insulting each other’s families at a sporting event; fans at both schools don’t really care one way or the other about having a rivalry.
Is this why Diaco chose to make something out of nothing with UCF? Or did he really think that “conflict” was a good play on words, er, letters?
To me, the manufactured conflict only highlights the incredibly sad state of affairs for UConn athletics. We don’t have a ton of good rivalries like we did in the Big East. We’re losing revenue because believe it or not, not a lot of people want to tune into CBS Sports to watch a UConn-East Carolina basketball game. Not a lot of people really want to come and watch that in person, either. Sure, we still play Syracuse, which is incredibly fun. But both fan bases can admit that, since the breakup of the Big East, the rivalry has not had the same heat and intensity as it once did.
In creating the Conflict, Diaco brought to the forefront this very problem. UConn athletics is stuck in the American, and sports fans are so desperate for some fierceness to run wild with that they’ll go as far as to create something out of nothing. They’ll take a joke to the point that it becomes serious, and before you know it, the student newspaper devotes an entire week to this fake rivalry, taking everything and running marathons with it.
It’s all fun and games until you realize just how sad it is.