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Agreement Not Necessary: Diaco Stands by Unilateral "Rivalry"

A week ago and a day ago, UConn announced a rivalry trophy with UCF and a clock counting down until the next time the Knights and Huskies play. UConn Coach Bob Diaco calls this the "Civil Conflict." UCF wasn't involved. Nonetheless, Diaco stands by his proclamation of a rivalry.

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WHEREAS, a body of men calling themselves the National Congress are now in session in Washington City, in violation of our Imperial edict of the 12th of October last, declaring the said Congress abolished;

WHEREAS, it is necessary for the repose of our Empire that the said decree should be strictly complied with;

NOW, THEREFORE, we do hereby Order and Direct Major-General Scott, the Command-in-Chief of our Armies, immediately upon receipt of this, our Decree, to proceed with a suitable force and clear the Halls of Congress.

- Proclamation of Emperor Norton I, January 1860.

Joshua Abraham Norton, the self-proclaimed Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, is one of the most colorful characters in American history. Here was a guy who lost a fortune investing (badly) in rice, lost a lawsuit litigating his rice contract, and then re-invented himself as a self-styled emperor. He made proclamations. Currency was issued in his name. Norton I had zero authority. None. He was an emperor in his own mind. But sometimes the people of San Francisco humored him. And that was . . . a kind of power. Maybe.

It turns out that UConn's Bob Diaco is the Emperor Norton I of college football.

Last week, he and the UConn football program declared unilaterally that UConn had a rivalry with UCF. This is the "Civil Conflict," and it comes complete with a countdown clock in UConn's locker room. And also a trophy. The trophy lists the result of only one of the two football games UConn and UCF have played.

UCF had no knowledge of, or involvement with, the rivalry game Diaco had declared. George O'Leary said he "didn't know anything about that":

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. Which 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 was undeterred. He stands by a rivalry with UCF and insists that UCF doesn't have to know or agree. And he doubled down on his earlier proclamation:

Why do I have to call their athletic department and say that we've got them targeted as our rival, period? What control would they have? What do I care what they think? If they don't want to be part of the trophy, I don't care about that either.

When you're Bob Diaco, reciprocity just doesn't figure into it:

Whether [UCF] 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.

When we discussed the "Civil Conflict" with our colleagues at The UConn Blog, we agreed that even though it would be wrong to label UConn-UCF a rivalry in any real sense, Diaco has certainly succeeded in generating interest about a game that few would have been talking about otherwise, much less talking about in June. There's a program marketing angle here that Diaco is clearly aware of:

For us it's exciting and I think it's fun. If you embrace it, you embrace it. If you don't, you don't. There was nothing before, so if you don't embrace it there would still be nothing. And if you do, even a little bit, it's more energetic and exciting.