Dec. 12, 2013
UConn President Susan Herbst:
"Thank you all for coming. Before I welcome Bob and his family - a few words of thanks. First, to our football team - hope we have a few players here- our students. They never gave up during what was a very tough football season this year. It was hard on them and their families, but they powered through it with real maturity and grace. This 2013 team was so special to many of us. I hope our seniors, especially, feel that respect. They embody the best of college athletic participation and pride in their school.
Second, thanks to our fans. Thanks for turning out, for keeping the excitement up, and for supporting the team. Thanks also for your patience. I know exactly why you became impatient. We are champions. UConn is accustomed to winning. Soccer, basketball, field hockey, baseball - storied programs, amazing coaches. Football will be the same, and soon. We'll do better, stay with us, and keep supporting our team, your team. Third, thanks to our Trustees. We have two, at least, here with [Chairman] Larry McHugh and Andrea Dennis-LaVigne. Larry, thanks so much in particular. You know he is both Connecticut leader and premiere football coach. He has been critical to our program building in the last few years and he shares his wisdom and perspective with Warde and I often. We're grateful he could be here today, Andrea as well. This is a historic moment for UConn football. Last word of thanks, and this is very personal, I thank TJ. I don't think a president could be more proud of a leader or a coach. He is dedicated. He is professional. He is a superb ambassador for UConn. Most of all, he loved our students, and that showed on and off the field. Everybody knows it. On behalf of the entire university, my immense gratitude. We have a fabulous new coach in Bob and I welcome him, his wife Julia, and his children - Angelo, Josephine, Michael - to Connecticut. I also bring greetings to Bob and his family from the commissioner of The American Athletic Conference and UConn grad Mike Aresco, and from our governor Dan Malloy - unwavering support over this university, he looks forward to meeting you when you settle in. It's a new day for UConn football, of course. Bob will boost this program with awesome energy and compelling vision that he has. He will win at the same time he enriches our values of integrity, academic integrity, and leadership. I'm so pleased that he comes from Notre Dame, such a very fine university with the high standards that we share. Bob, please know that starting today as of about 1:30am, you have the entire weight of the Husky nation behind you, and that is a very powerful thing. He'll inspire our students and our fans. We're ready to work to become the truly great program that this University and the state deserves. Welcome."
Director of Athletics Warde Manuel:
"Welcome everybody. It is a great day. Like Susan, I want to start off with a thank you to TJ and his staff and the team for the fight, the character, the determination, the never-quit mentality that they showed this year. In his remarks to the team earlier today he emphasized how special that was. It made him see about the guys that he's going to be leading next year, so I, too, want to thank them.
This is a great day for UConn and UConn football. I was told outside by our esteemed band director that he may want to tie a string around my toe to keep me from floating because I'm so excited about this day and who we have to introduce to you. I want to welcome Bob, but I especially want to welcome Julia, Josephine, Angelo, Michael, Bob Sr., Frankie. This is a special day for us because we welcome not just a new leader but a new family. It was a great search process for me but even a better result. I just want to touch on a couple of issues about the search. We had a great candidate pool. I want to thank the men that took the time to come talk to me about their vision for how they could lead UConn football. Bob - I'm going to make this clear to everyone - was my top choice. The things that are out there - you all can write whatever you like. This is my top choice. This is the person that I chose. He was the first interview of the day and it was a great interview. He was constantly there on my mind. Read what you like, think what you like. I'm telling you, he was my top choice. Last, I want to address an issue that I talked to everyone about before I went out on the search. We are investing in our staff. We are investing more resources in our assistant pool for this gentleman and the coaches and the student-athletes to be successful. That was determined before I left Connecticut to do the interviews. So I just wanted to address those issues, and that's the last I'm going to say about them because this is about introducing the gentleman who I found in the interview process - Bob Diaco. I'll talk a little bit about the research on him. People talk about spectacular leader; tremendous teacher; passionate about student-athletes, not just the game of football, but about the student-athletes; cares deeply about the places he's been; shows love and affection and doesn't just talk about football; unbelievable recruiter. As I'm sitting there last night, my phone's blowing up. We didn't finish until 1:30 am. I know all of people were saying the deal was done at eight, nine, ten o'clock at night. It hadn't been done until 1:30am. As I'm sitting there, his phone is blowing up with his former players who care deeply and want to say, "coach, congratulations on the things that I'm hearing." That's important. It solidified that I made the right choice. He presented a great plan. He talked about the academic success of the student-athletes being first and foremost and important. He talked about consistency of championship performance. He talked about the process, he talked about the development of players, on and off the field, of young men. It was clear he knew about the greatness of UConn; the greatness of the state; our history of championship success in football and other sports; and great fans. I'll let him tell you about when he came here last as an opponent of the Huskies and how that resonated with him about this opportunity.
This gentleman is about winning. He's about winning at everything that he does. He was a great player, he was a national assistant coach of the year a year ago. He's been to BCS Championship games, he's had the top defense in the country in many different categories. More importantly, he's a great person and I'd like to introduce him to let you hear from him - Bob Diaco."
UConn Football Head Coach Bob Diaco
"Well I want to thank President Susan Herbst. I want to thank coach and chairmen Larry McHugh. I want to thank Athletic Director Warde Manuel for giving me the opportunity to represent this incredible institution and this incredible football team. It is a great and a profound honor to be here. I want to thank the band - I love college bands, that is awesome - and I want to thank the cheerleaders, thanks so much for coming. I'm just going to talk, I wrote down a few notes between the hours of 3:30am and whatever other time I started. I'm embarrassed to say I was in the same clothes for about two and a half days. Hopefully I don't look too disheveled. My family flew me a jacket and a tie up here. I also acknowledge my wife Julia, my son Angelo, my daughter Josephine, my son Michael, my father Bob, my brother Frank, my brother Joe, whose support every day of my life and every day that I've known them their lives, they haven't wavered in their support of me or this game, not one bit. I owe a lot of the opportunity to do this and pursue my dreams and my particular passions because they have allowed me to at every single turn. So I want to thank them very much. As I was saying, growing up in northern New Jersey you could see how the northeast is packed with rabid football fans. The interest in the game, and just in athletics in general, is so important and so engrained in the fabric of what we are here, that it trickles down all the way to creating very talented players and a great pool of athletes in our northeast footprint. Then it works its way all the way up to creating what is, and leaving the Fighting Irish it would be apropos not to quote [Hall of Fame Notre Dame Football Coach Knute] Rockne when he talked about, where there's an apathetic student body and a listless faculty, you'll have failure on the athletic field. The fact of the matter is one of the most appealing things here at UConn is this incredible school spirit. You are to be commended, it will continue, and I will help it grow. Thank you.
"Growing up here and understanding this footprint, it's an incredible recruiting hotbed. People from all over America come to the northeast to pluck players. There are roughly 23 million people within a hundred mile radius of this campus. There are 58 million people in the northeast corridor. There are more than enough prospective student-athletes to collect about 25 per year for UConn. There's no doubt about that. Speaking about Connecticut in general, there are some very talented Connecticut football players on our team right now, which is excellent, and there are also, unfortunately, a whole bunch of Connecticut players that have created winning season and championships for other teams around the country. Moving forward, we'll do our due diligence here in the state to make sure that every coach feels valued, every coach has access, every one of these, I think, its 169 spectacularly prideful cities have an opportunity and access to UConn Husky football, and go from there, and then recruit the Northeast corridor as our footprint.
"As Warde eloquently pointed out, maybe point out a few weeks ago or a few days ago, this is not a rebuilding job. This is not a rebuilding job. The fact of the matter is that this school has great resources. You look at the Burton Family Football Complex, you look at the Shenkman Football Complex, and it's clear that from a facility standpoint and a resources standpoint, you're not going to go anywhere in the country and find nicer. Maybe they'll have a little bit of different this, a little bit of different that, but there's a whole bunch of places that don't quite have what we have. This is a spectacular place with great resources. Those will continue and I will do everything that I can to help foster and grow that. That's a piece of my job I'm looking forward to.
"This is a great school. You talk about top-ten public, it's identified as a public Ivy, it's one of the top research institutions in the world. It's a top 20 rated public school, it's a top 25 rated business school. It's got an incredible niche that when we go into the homes, we don't have to worry about sales, we can present. We can present UConn academics to prospects and to families and the guardians that care for them. It's also a great source of pride for the players on our team. It's also a great source of pride for the players on our team, that they understand what they're identified with on that level, which will create a resiliency on our athletic fields. Pretty awesome.
"And then championship teams - when I say championship teams which team did you think about? Well, you probably thought about football, but you probably thought about a couple of basketball teams. But you know what, let's talk about the field hockey team. Right? National championship team. So the championships are abound. As you look in the chemistry building, you find championship. As you look in the field hockey facility you find championships. As you look in the basketball facility you find championships, and as you look in the football facility you find championships.
"Working for Warde, he is a football guy. Warde played football, Warde administered for one of the premiere football institutions in the country, and he is going to bring that kind of mindset and innovative team building to this athletic department. That's another big reason why I'm so excited about being here.
On why UConn is a good fit:
"As I said, the community spirit that I point to is so present here. Warde wanted me to share a little story so I will. We brought a team in here and it was really ugly so I don't want to recap it for too long. But I do want to say that we were driving these buses and it was packed. The grills are going and the music is playing and people are hollering at the buses. It was a hostile, energetic environment. The people were packed in The Rent. It was rocking. The news reports are irrelevant; I don't really care. You put a list of coaches together that are still living I don't know where I fall. It's not one or two, it's probably 562. I don't know who on the list, maybe it was Parcells or Belichick. I'm just glad for me and my family because we are where we want to be. We're at UConn. That's exactly the right fit for us. I'm exactly the right fit for this team and they're exactly the right fit for me. We're going to grow together and create championships here.
On the American Athletic Conference:
"From my perspective I am so excited. Just a few days ago Commissioner Aresco showed his lineup and you read it and can't help but get excited. Not only are they all great destinations, they are just fun matchups. If you have a good team you know you're going to have postseason opportunities. That adds more practices that are fun and a great trip for everyone to go during the holidays. Then when you look at the matchups, there are great teams. There's Central Florida and Cincinnati and I know Cincinnati personally. Last time I was at Cincinnati, we were 12-0 after the regular season going to the Sugar Bowl. That's a great football team. Central Florida is a great football team. Houston has been in the top-10. This is a great, competitive environment. Then we you think of some of these additions in the next few years the conference is going to off the charts fun to play against and coach against. It's going to be a great atmosphere and great energy in the American Athletic Conference. Just to finish up, I met with the football team and I'm standing there looking in their faces and they're looking at me like `who's this guy?'. I understand it but about five minutes in their faces kind of changed and about 10 minutes later they changed again. By the time we were done we were kind of looking at a team and that's exciting. They've already showed their grit. The staff showed their grit too. Kudos to Coach Weist, he did a fantastic job. The staff did a fantastic job. I can't wait to get a chance to work with these guys.
On how he will assemble a staff:
"The first thing that needs to be done is to meet with the staff that is already here. I don't personally have a staff in place. Warde has reassured me that we'll have an opportunity to do what's necessary to put the team and staff together. With that said, I don't have one put together. I have a collection of people in my life that are really good people that are loyal and trustworthy. Like I said, we signed the documents at 1:30 a.m. so I wasn't interested in waking anyone out of bed. The first order of business is to meet with the staff that is already here.
On why football is his passion:
"Growing up, based on when I was a little guy, it had been engrained in me. It's like Pavlov's dogs. When I walk across the stripe and onto the field there is only one particular speed and energy. I bring the full scope of all my talents, energy and passion into that arena. I believe I was brought onto the earth to teach young men how to be men in football.
On why he feels he's ready to become a head coach after years of being an assistant coach:
"Brian Kelly, my greatest boss and a fantastic coach and leader, allowed me an opportunity to take a lot of ownership in a large portion of the team at Notre Dame. He worked to cultivate me for a few years and allowed me to sit in on conversations about the organization that he had at an executive level. My sphere of influence there was at 60 or 65, and I'm looking forward to doubling it here and bringing it to about 140. I'm ready for that and I'm excited. Will every day be peaches and cream? It surely won't. Will I make all the right decisions? I surely won't. But I have a drilled down focus on a day-to-day basis and I will collect as much information as I can from the people around the organization, players included. With that collection, the answers will be solved.
On if there will be a different challenge in recruiting at UConn compared to Notre Dame:
"It'll be different. I don't think it's fair to use the word challenge. The fact of the matter is there's a whole bunch of teams fighting over each other for particular prospects in the ACC and Big Ten, and we're really just operating on our own. We're working in our own world and collecting our own players to win the American Athletic Championship and that's exciting. When you look at the demographics of the area with 75 percent of the students here live on campus. How awesome is that? You have this awesome airport here and a lot of direct flights to metropolitan areas. There are some great areas where you find great players where the message resonates. The message is if you're interested in being a business man or a finance major you can come to Connecticut, where it's the number two finance placement opportunity in the union. If you're interested in science, engineering or mathematics there's really not a better place in the country where you could go than UConn. In terms of recruiting, we have a lot to present here and there are more than enough prospects to collect.
On what he talked about exactly when he spoke with the players earlier today:
"What we talked about is the type of energy that needs to be approached with on a day-to-day basis and where that energy comes from. When you show up on campus, I'm not going to reshape your DNA but I want to cultivate what that is and help that grow. We talked a little bit about the path that we're going to walk down together. There will be ultimate goals. We're going to have outcome goals to beat our rival and win the home games. What we're really going to focus on is our process goals. Coach Fry told us to always ask ourselves this question: Will it help you win? If it will do it, if it won't don't. Then we talked about what's coming up with this small phase right here. Let's finish strong with our academics. It's finals week. I wanted to get them out of there too, so I don't take too much of their time in the week of finals. I then told them safe travels home and Merry Christmas. I already care about them because I love football, and I love the men that serve the game. Period. That was before I even walked through these doors.
On what it will take to win at UConn:
"With love, anything is possible. So, the process, our organization is a process. We're going to have a drill down focus and we're going to be on a mission. We're going to understand things we treasure. We're going to consistently apply the appropriate pressure every single day. And that's how we're going to become a champion, again."
On what got him into coaching and what keeps him in coaching:
"You know, it's interesting. When I finished at the University of Iowa I had started a bunch of games and been a two-time All-Big Ten player and I had some success. I thought for sure I was going to play in the NFL and get a chance. But [I ended up] being labeled as not physically able to compete, too small, too slow, too weak. Coach [Hayden] Fry offered me an opportunity to become a graduate assistant because he understood that I met my coach at the football complex some time between 6:00 and 7:00 every day. Sometimes I'd be waiting there for him. I just had such a passion for the game and the knowledge and learning it and teaching it and communicating it that it was a natural fit. I will say I actually talked to my wife Julie about moving to France and studying at Cordon Bleu and becoming a chef but my dad, talked me out of because he said it would be too much work. So three days later I've been awake constantly working on football. Football is over all I've ever known, it is the engine that drives me, it is my passion, it is my life's mission, it is my life's work.