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Diaco introduced as 30th UConn football head coach.

POSTED December 12, 2013
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

STORRS: If a battle can be won in your initial press conference, consider this new UConn head coach Bob Diaco’s first victory.

The 30th head coach of the University of Connecticut Huskies football program got off to a stellar start in an engaging, motivating and at times humorous first impression in front of a packed media room.

Diaco signed a five-year deal worth upwards of eight million dollars (more possible with a boat load of incentives) that had the guy that got him, Athletic Director Warde Manuel in a very good mood.

“Regardless of what you heard or wrote,” Manuel said. “Bob Diaco was my top choice all along. He was my first interview of the day and he was on my mind a lot after that as well.”

Reports had circulated that Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi may have been the first choice and when he passed on the job Tuesday, it fell to Diaco.

That does not appear to be the case and in any case, Manuel got the defensive guy he had been looking for to lead a Huskie team that had a miserable season in 2013, save the last three games of the year which they won.

Those wins showed the former Fighting Irish defensive guru, who won the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach a year ago, a lot about the character of the team he will be taking over.

“They showed me grit and fight in those wins,” Diaco said. “They showed a mental and physical toughness in those games.”

Diaco has yet to pick his staff and by all indications, interim head coach T.J. Weist and the rest of the current staff will get to meet with the new head man.

He calls himself a football lifer, having fallen in love with the game of football at a very early age.

UConn was not a hard choice for the former Iowa two-time All-Big Ten linebacker who understands what being at the helm of a sports program here means.

“This school is about champions,” Diaco said. “Just look at the Field Hockey team that just won a National Championship. Everybody knows about the basketball teams, there is a culture of winning here.”

The last three season at UConn have not shed a positive light on a football program that had gone to Bowl games in consecutive season under Randy Edsall before he bolted for Maryland in the middle of the night.

Two plus seasons under Paul Pasquloni resulted in back to back 5-7 seasons which led up to his dismissal after starting the 2013 campaign, 0-4.

Weist took over and lost five straight but is credited with keeping the team focused through three quarterbacks and that 0-9 start.

The Huskies rallied to beat Temple with 28 unanswered points in the second half before downing Bowl bound Rutgers by a 28-17 score and mauling Memphis 45-10 in the season finale.

Diaco has become known for being one of the best one defensive minds in the college game today, a skill he showed off with the Irish, a program that averaged just 19 points allowed over the last four years.

What kind of offense does he envision having?

“One that dominates, overwhelms, mashes and does whatever it takes to get it done,” Diaco said. “We’re going to begin winning immediately, goals will be set.”

His experience in the post season is impressive with five games under his belt, including the BCS National Championship game a year ago.

The Irish will play in the Pinstripe Bowl this season without Diaco but his impact was felt during his stint in South Bend.

The past 48-hours have been grueling for the New Jersey native who found himself recruiting a player for the Irish at one point and standing in Storrs accepting his first head coaching job with a program searching for a winning formula the next.

His ability to recruit is said to be one of his strengths and attracting top players from the vast East Coast is something he looks forward to.

“We have to get as many great players as we can every year,” Diaco said, “We will make this a program players want to come to.”

After a bit of deserved rest, Diaco will get about the business of forming his coaching staff, a process that he wants to get done quickly but with due diligence.

UConn fans hope this 40-year olds passion translates into a 2014 and beyond season to remember.

As Diaco said, “Tickets will be going on sale soon. Get them while you can.”

A packed Rentschler Field. We saw it against Michigan this season. Wouldn’t it be nice to see it six times in 2014?

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