Made-up UConn football rivalry with UCF over, but trophy still missing

Published on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 23:08
Written by Neill Ostrout

Journal Inquirer

NEWPORT, R.I. - It likely wasn’t akin to a scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” where a lonely worker wheels a crate containing a priceless artifact through a giant maze of identical boxes full of perhaps just as valuable treasures.

No, the final resting place of the Civil Conflict Trophy - former UConn head coach Bob Diaco’s odd, poorly planned moniker for his team’s game with Central Florida - probably isn’t as dramatic.

But it’s a mystery nonetheless.

Diaco envisioned the hardware being a much sought-after spoil for the victors of the annual meeting between two geographically dissimilar opponents thrust together by the vagaries of conference realignment. And, indeed, in the first year of the concocted rivalry, Diaco’s Huskies did dance around Bright House Networks Stadium with the trophy after beating UCF 40-13.

The problem was, of course, that the Knights weren’t exactly in on the joke. Former UCF head coach George O’Leary had given something akin to tacit approval of Diaco’s plan - after the first trophy Diaco created was fixed to include a missing score from the series, and amended to include the Knights’ correct logo - but neither UCF officials nor its players exactly embraced the idea.

Diaco changed what he deemed as the official name of the rivalry from “The Civil Conflict” to “The ConFLiCT.” He felt removing a reference to a war between the states and adding the abbreviations for the participating states might ease it into the college football lexicon.

It did not.

So when UCF beat UConn 24-16 last season in East Hartford, the victorious Knights made no effort to grab the Civil Conflict Trophy that was placed prominently behind the UConn bench at Pratt & Whitney Stadium.

The trophy was put back down on a bench seat, then covered with a towel, and soon after placed back in a crate for transfer back to the UConn campus in Storrs.

What happened to the trophy following the game remains in doubt. Numerous UConn officials claim they have no knowledge of its final resting place.

“I honestly don’t know,” UConn Athletic Director David Benedict said Tuesday. “That trophy was there before I got there. I believe that trophy was commissioned and paid for by coach Diaco. And therefore if it left with him, I don’t know that, but if it did that’s fine.”

After it became clear that the ConFLiCT wouldn’t develop into something like Paul Bunyan’s Ax or the Old Oaken Bucket, which was almost immediately following UCF’s Oct. 22 win, Diaco said he was shelving the venture.

When asked what might happen to the trophy, Diaco joked to a reporter that he could have it to use as a coat rack - if the scribe in question, Diaco said, got a second one. Maybe it’s being used by Diaco for that purpose at Nebraska. He was hired as the Cornhuskers’ defensive coordinator after UConn fired him.

“I still respect and appreciate what Bob was trying to do to cultivate tradition and rivalries,” Benedict said. “The Big Ten probably does the best job of it. They have all these trophy games. So Bob’s experience playing at Iowa, and being familiar with the Big Ten, he was trying to replicate some of that. The effort and intention was right.”

The execution of Diaco’s plan, however, was fatally flawed.

Neill Ostrout is an assistant sports editor at the Journal Inquirer.

Posted in The Bristol Press, General Sports, UConn on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 23:08. Updated: Wednesday, 19 July 2017 23:11.