UConn head coach: Diaco takes control

John F. Silver

STORRS, Conn. — Bob Diaco spoke a little Latin, quoted Garth Brooks and talked about Energy Vampires.  

Yup, this head football coach is a little different than all the rest.

Diaco was introduced as head football coach for the University of Connecticut on Thursday ending a months long search, on the radar and off the radar, as the Huskies look to turnaround a program that once was in the Fiesta Bowl, but has gone 13-24 in the past three years with no bowl games.

Diaco, 40, takes control after four years as Notre Dame defensive coordinator. He signed a 5-year, $8 million with requisite buyouts and bonuses.

UConn has buyouts of $4.2 million before Dec. 31 2014 that decrease every year until $800,000 in 2018.  Diaco, a highly-sought after defensive coordinator, has a $2.1 million buyout for next year that decreases to $1.4 million, $700,000 and then $400,000 in the final two years.

The deal wasn’t signed until 1:17 a.m. Thursday morning, hours after it was reportedly agreed to, but Director of Athletics Warde Manuel had his guy.

“The guy can coach,” Manuel said. “He brings the passion, he isn’t just going to be rah rah. He can put a scheme together.”

Diaco, with his wife Julia and three children, were on hand in Storrs to get started on the job. Diaco has been to Storrs before, as a coach for Eastern Michigan in 2001, and was part of the Virginia staff that UConn obliterated at Rentschler Field in 2008.

He returns to Storrs with the goal to get UConn back into bowl and championship contention.

Diaco thinks it can get done in Storrs, or he wouldn’t have taken the job.

(UConn) made a decision to have resources, facilities, first class travel, first class nutrition and first class training facilities and first class (salary) pool to have a first class staff more than or equal to what we have to compete against,” Diaco said.

There were reports on Wednesday that Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi didn’t think the assistant coach salary pool was robust enough and he withdrew from consideration Wednesday evening. By that time, UConn was already in deep negotiations with Diaco.

Manuel said that Narduzzi and UConn were discussing terms, but that the negotiations weren’t in final stages.  He also refuted the salary issues for assistants.

Asked whether Narduzzi was offered the job Manuel said there was talk.

“I talked to him about terms, what it would look like,” Manuel said. “I had a process I had in place for them to meet (President ) Susan Herbst and he never got to that place because he decided to withdraw.”

Diaco takes over the helm of a program that he said was not a rebuilding job.

But there is a lot of program building to do.

The first part is the assistants, who met Diaco on Thursday. Manuel said some assistants have indicated they won’t interview and that the decision will be up to Diaco.

Diaco wants assistants in place as soon as possible.

“I don’t have predisposed anything,” Diaco said. “Let’s talk (with assistants), if we put it together, we put it together, if not we move on.

“I want to be done meeting with whomever would like to meet with me on Monday. I will hook back up with the administration  and the process of moving forward.”

Diaco will have to hit the ground running this weekend. He will be back in South bend making exiting plans, but said he is going to talk with recruits trough the weekend. Starting Monday, recruits can only be contacted once a week through the dead period that ends after the bowl season.

Diaco knows that recruiting is the life blood. The Huskies have put players in the NFL Draft and thinks that’s something it can do at UConn.

“You don’t collect that player. It’s not powder in a box and you shake it and go,” Diaco said. “It’s development, it’s organization. We collect a player as a freshman and we build him up in the course of 2, 3 4 years…teach, care cultivate and develop them.”

Diaco is the face of UConn football. He’s young, energetic and aggressive. Everything that UConn needs right now in a coach.

What it needs above all is to start winning. That will be the ultimate test of the hire.

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