UConn surprises OLeary with trophy
The photo posted by UConn's official Twitter account seemed like something you'd see on April 1. Not June 1.
Perched upon a stand, apparently inside the Huskies' locker room, sat a trophy. Just as UConn coach Bob Diaco promised last year, the "Civil Conflict" was now officially a thing. And if the piece of hardware isn't enough incentive, there's a "Beat UCF" countdown clock ticking down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the Oct. 10 matchup in Orlando.
The "Civil Conflict" isn't a new concept. Following UConn's 37-29 victory against the Knights last Nov. 1 - which was their only FBS win of the season and UCF's only loss within the conference - Diaco said he'd very much like to begin a rivalry game with UCF. In multiple interview sessions in the days to follow, Diaco coined the term "Civil Conflict" and said he'd even buy the trophy. He joked in the years UCF was the loser, they'd have to display nutmeg on an empty stand (UConn is the Nutmeg State) and when UConn lost, a sack of oranges.
The win against UCF was really the only high point of Diaco's first season (they finished 2-10) but does that make a rivalry? Granted he wasn't the coach then, but the trophy conveniently omitted the 2013 result, a 62-17 UCF victory in Orlando.
The only problem? UCF had nothing to do with it. The school's communication department issued this brief statement on Monday night.
"UCF did not have any involvement in the creation of a trophy or an annual rivalry game with UConn. We are excited to continue the series with the Huskies here in Orlando in October."
Prior to Wednesday's Downtown Huddle event, George O'Leary confirmed they were taken by surprise when the tweet surfaced on Monday.
"I didn't know anything about that," O'Leary said. "I was asked about it (by our staff). I didn't know anything about a trophy, a time thing or anything else. My experience is you're more likely to have a rivalry against a team closer to where you live. When I was at (Georgia) Tech it was Georgia. I think it's UCF-USF here. When you go 10 states away, I think it's hard. North and South thing or whatever, I don't know."
Diaco, a self-described fan of O'Leary, told the Hartford Courant the rivalry was born out of respect for UCF.
"The terrain was also an easy fit with UConn being the north-most team vs. UCF, one of the most southern teams in the Eastern Division of the American Conference," Diaco e-mailed the newspaper. "Rivalries have to start somewhere. Our hope is that this game will be just that and be scheduled and played with the class and spirit of the other great rivalries in college football."
Even if UCF is skeptical of the game becoming a meaningful rivalry, that doesn't mean the Knights won't be fired up for a little revenge come October. Not only did the loss break the two-year American winning streak and prevented full claim of the 2014 league title, O'Leary confirmed at the Downtown Huddle it also knocked them out of the access bowl.
Had UCF finished the regular season 10-2 and not 9-3, O'Leary said they'd have been in a New Year's Six bowl game, which either would have been the Fiesta Bowl or Peach Bowl. That perk ended up going to Mountain West champion Boise State, who went on to beat Arizona in the Fiesta.
But now that there's a trophy, wouldn't O'Leary love to take possession of it in a few months?
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