— UConn Football (@UConnFootball) June 1, 2015
The Civil ConFLiCT was (or is, depending on how feel) undoubtedly one of the most obscure parts in all of UConn Athletics. Back in October 2015, head coach Bob Diaco commissioned a trophy and announced to the college football world UConn’s new rivalry with American Conference opponent University of Central Florida. Considering the two first met on the field only in 2013, with no history or geography to bind them, it seemed like an odd move. Then UCF head coach George O’leary dismissed the rivalry leading to Diaco’s infamous retort “They (UCF) don’t get to say whether they are our rival or not.”
Fast forward to 2017, both Diaco and O’leary have been let go for their ineptitudes. Replacements Randy Edsall and Scott Frost don’t seem to give the rivalry any credence within their programs and to many, it is officially dead. All that is left is finding the trophy UCF left behind last year.
Ultimately, the Civil ConFLiCT was a shooting star, coming and going before many knew what to make of it. Still, it impacted UConn’s program in some capacity and the question is, positively or negatively?
Matt Barresi: First of all the Civil ConFLiCT is still real to me and always will be. I’m of the Diaco mindset. You (anyone who is a non-believer) don’t get to say whether or not I think this a rivalry. The Civil ConFLiCT was great for a lot of reasons. One reason may be it played a role in Diaco ultimately getting fired, which appears to have been necessary.
It also brought the program a great deal of media attention. The cliche is all publicity is good publicity. Having people recognize UConn football was cool, even if it was for dumb reasons. It reached more than just the college football insider community, people who actually influence American pop culture were even mocking it, and as a by-product, talking about UConn football. No one likes being made fun of, but take it with a grain of salt. Everything about the Civil ConFLiCT had a lighthearted nature to it.
College football is serious, but it is supposed to be fun. The Civil ConFLiCT was fun because it was stupid. Joking on the spectacle was fun. Pieces like Jeff Jacob’s in the Hartford Courant about the trophy’s location was all good-natured jesting. A lot of the stuff we did at the Daily Campus was the same way. Comic relief is a good thing, and boy was it needed last year.
You weren’t getting me to go to that UCF game last season without the ConFLiCT. The actual on-field product was a bigger joke than the rivalry. But there was this spectacle about it, fraudulent in its origins, that allowed me to interact with the game and the program in a way where I could detach myself from the team’s pitiful play. Even with everything that went wrong for UConn, the Civil ConFLiCT was a shared basis for a laugh and way to riff on the program without being too somber or analytical. Its jovial nature was ultimately a good thing for the fanbase.
Sean Janos: While I agree that the Civil ConFLiCT was stupid and a funny joke, it also made a mockery of our football team. No one outside of Connecticut was going to take a Diaco-coached UConn football team seriously. The faux rivalry just reinforced that. What the Civil ConFLiCT did was make UConn football out to be a circus. While circuses are fun and goofy, they’re also unorganized laughing stocks.
Let’s be honest, creating your own trophy to play for because you can’t contend for a trophy that actually means something is a lame move. Even our so called “rival” UCF thought it was lame. They’re completely uninterested in calling us a rival because they don’t even think of us as a threat. Isn’t a rivalry a two-way street? When they left the trophy on the sidelines after they beat us, I can’t help but take that as a slight at our program.
As a college football team, we should be striving to compete with our conference opponents. We shouldn’t be giving them opportunities to totally own us on the internet. UCF is coming into the game as a ranked team, while our biggest accomplishment this season is a four-point win against 4-5 (2-3 in conference) Temple. The last thing on our minds should be a self-proclaimed rivalry that the other team refuses to recognize. It makes for a good meme, but that’s about it.
Matt Barresi: There are also worse teams to turn into a combatant. UCF had been a successful non-power-five for some time, producing a top pick like Blake Bortles and NFL standouts like Brandon Marshall.
We were in a foreign land, with no familiarity. Bob Diaco identified a benchmark he wanted to achieve in competing with a program like UCF. What is so wrong with that? What is wrong with trying to instill passion in your team and your fanbase? In a backwards way, it worked. UConn fans have gotten behind the Civil ConFLiCT as a joke, but it has evoked passion, conversation and interest among fans. UConn fans do want to beat UCF now; they did feel slighted when UCF left the trophy out at Rentschler field after last year’s game.
Terrible shot from press box but there on end of bench at 40 yd line, that's Civil ConFLiCT trophy 10 min after game… pic.twitter.com/qd7tZbNHKE
— Mike Anthony (@ManthonyCourant) October 23, 2016
This emotion and connection outside of the ordinary hopes for success in the fan base is something UConn fans hadn’t felt since Paul Pasqualoni destroyed everything Randy Edsall built his first go-around. His logic may have been flawed, but the fact is the Civil ConFliCT is a thing now. It’s a rallying point. UConn needed that, so Bob Diaco, good on you.
Sean Janos: I agree that Coach Diaco’s logic was definitely flawed in his creation of the Civil ConFLiCT trophy. There is no denying that. Creating a false rivalry that the other team refuses to recognize to motivate your players and fans just doesn’t sound right. I’d rather rally behind something real, not behind a “rivalry” with a clever name and a trophy that represents our woes on the field. If Diaco put as much effort into running an offense as he did in creating the Civil ConFLiCT, he might’ve actually gotten us somewhere besides on the rear end of a viral internet joke.
There’s nothing wrong with instilling passion in your fanbase through some light-hearted humor, but I think it’s time to leave the Civil ConFLiCT behind. I have wholeheartedly placed my faith in Coach Edsall to transform us into a respectable football program that can compete in the AAC. I’d like to forget as much of the “Diaco fiasco” as possible, which included the creation of the trophy that is more of a joke than an award. It will be impossible to disassociate Diaco from the Civil ConFLiCT. But when people think “UConn football,” I don’t want the first thing to come to mind to be the picture of the trophy standing alone on the UCF sideline.
I agree that the players, coaches and fans can use UCF’s dismissal of the rivalry as fuel to try to pull an upset. UCF football is no joke. We are big-time underdogs. The satisfaction that would come with beating a ranked conference opponent in their house should create motivation by itself.
Looking back on the 2016-17 football season, I’d like to remember it for its good points. The last second win over Maine in the season opener, the near flawless game we played against Cincinnati and the end of the Diaco era should be the highlights of the otherwise disappointing season. Not a made-up, one-sided joke of a rivalry.
A lot of people think Bob Diaco was the biggest crackpot to come through Storrs in a long time. He was indeed a creative free spirit which led him to create his own rivalry with a directional school in Florida the University of Connecticut had no prior history or animosity with.
That rivalry was something that partially defined his tenure and still afflicts the entire entity that is UConn football even though he is gone.
As much as many fans want to, you cannot deny the Civil ConFLiCT. What is up for grabs was its benevolence to UConn football, or lack thereof. Right now, it’s hard to say.
Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sean Janos is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.