UConn coach says he doesn't need UCF's consent for rivalry

HARTFORD, Conn. -- UConn football coach Bob Diaco says he doesn't need UCF's permission to create a rivalry game with the Knights.

UConn last week posted a picture of a trophy Diaco had commissioned for the annual game between the American Athletic Conference schools, which he has dubbed "The Civil Conflict." Above the trophy was a countdown clock marking the time until the Oct. 10 game in Orlando.

"Why do I have to call their athletic department to say that we've got them targeted as our rival, period? What control over that would they have? What do I care what they think? If they don't want to be a part of the trophy, I don't care about that either," Diaco said Monday, according to the New Haven Register.

UConn spokesman Mike Enright said "Civil Conflict'' is a reference to UConn being the northernmost university in the conference and UCF being "one of the most southern.''

The "rivalry'' appeared to catch UCF by surprise. The school issued a statement saying it did not have any involvement in the creation of the trophy or an annual rivalry game with UConn.UCF coach George O'Leary told reporters prior to a speaking engagement in Orlando last week that he knew nothing about the "Civil Conflict.''

"I didn't know anything about that," O'Leary said last week, according to UCFSports.com. "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 said Monday that UConn considers UCF its football rival, whether that feeling is reciprocal or not.

"Whether [Central Florida] honors it, we will honor it. We don't have control over that, so who cares. They don't get to say whether they are our rival or not. We might not be their rival, but they don't get to say whether they are our rival -- that is for us to decide," he said, according to the Register.

UConn beat UCF 37-29 at Rentschler Field last season, the Huskies' only win over a Division I opponent and the Knights' lone conference loss.

The score of that game is so far the only one on the trophy, which has slots for nameplates commemorating future games. The teams have only played twice, with UCF winning 62-17 over the Huskies on Oct. 26, 2013. Diaco said that score isn't on the trophy because the game predates his arrival in Storrs.

"We got here and Central Florida is the best team in the league, and I think they are the best-coached team in the league. I have ultimate respect for Coach O'Leary, what he does and how he runs his program. They run a class program there, so what better team for us to target," Diaco said, according to the newspaper.

"In our locker room, they get a little extra work and they are going to get a little extra work. They are a target for us, it is a big game for us and they are going to get an extra heartbeat from us. Whether they want to give it back to us or not that is on them."

It's not clear what will happen to the trophy after the Oct. 10 game. UCF spokesman Brian Ormiston was asked if the Knights would take possession of the trophy should they win.

"That is something we can only answer if we were in discussions with UConn,'' he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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