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Football: Bob Diaco introduced as head coach

Sports Editor

Published: Thursday, December 12, 2013

Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2013 18:12

UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel had a plan when he left Connecticut to find a new football coach – to find the right fit for his program. He interviewed several candidates, but he had one man in mind the entire time.

On Thursday, that man, Bob Diaco, was introduced as the new head coach of the Huskies at the Burton Family Football Complex in Storrs.

“This great process is a great process for me but an even a better result,” Manuel said at Thursday’s press conference. “We had a great candidate pool…Bob, I’m going to make this clear to you, was my top choice.”

Diaco leaves his position as defensive coordinator and associate head coach at Notre Dame to become the 30th head coach in UConn history. According to Manuel, the deal was completed at about 1:30 a.m. Thursday. Diaco signed a five-year contract worth about $8 million.

“I want to thank [Manuel] for giving me the opportunity to represent this incredible institution and this incredible football team,” Diaco said. “It is a great, profound honor to be here.”

Diaco takes the reigns of the program from T.J. Weist, who replaced Paul Pasqualoni after an 0-4 start this season and a 10-18 total record at UConn. Weist, who was hired prior to the 2013 season as offensive coordinator, finished the year with a 3-5 record as the interim head coach.

Weist interviewed for the head coaching job earlier this week, following the Huskies’ 45-10 win over Memphis, the third win in a row after an 0-9 start.

There was no indication made Thursday as to whether Weist will remain with the Huskies, but Diaco says that he will speak to the coaching staff at UConn before making decisions on whether to make changes or not. Manuel has assured Diaco that he will support any change the new coach deems necessary.

Diaco, 40, was the 2012 recipient of the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach, as Notre Dame’s defense ranked in the top 10 nationally and the Irish played Alabama for the national championship.

According to the terms of his contract, Diaco will receive a $400,000 bonus if UConn wins the College Football Playoff, which will replace the Bowl Championship Series in the 2014 season. Both Manuel and Diaco stated Thursday that the UConn job is not a rebuilding job, it is about winning.

“Champion,” Diaco responded when asked what he believes the Huskies can be. When asked how they get there, Diaco responded in Latin with a phrase from St. Augustine.

“With love and diligence, anything is possible,” Diaco said. “We’re in the process, our organization is a process organization, and we’re going to have a drill-down focus. And we’re going be on a mission. We’re going to understand the things that we treasure and our blessings, and we’re going to consistently apply the appropriate pressure every single day, and that’s how we’re going to become a champion again.”

Diaco’s opening press conference was full of energy, from the band playing the fight song as he took the podium to the cheerleaders standing to his right, but most of all from Diaco himself. Diaco wants his players to be energetic and fill his energy bucket and to avoid being what he calls energy vampires.

“Energy bucket is just what it sounds like – you’re either filling my energy bucket up or your emptying it out. Or an energy vampire. So when I get around energy vampires I cover my neck because I don’t want you to suck the energy out of me.”

Diaco has already explained to his new team what kind of energy he expects at a meeting Thursday afternoon prior to the introduction press conference. He also spoke to the team about the goals that they will put in place to reach their ultimate goal of being champions and being the best team on the field. It took some time to get the players to buy into what he was saying, Diaco said, but he thinks he got around to them.

“I’m standing there and I’m looking at their faces, and they’re looking at me like, ‘Who is this guy?’” Diaco said. “And I understand it – a couple of coaches in so many years. But about five minutes in, their faces kind of changed. About 10 minutes after that, they changed again. By the time we were done, we were kind of looking at a team. And that’s exciting. I can’t wait to get with these guys.”

 

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