Once upon a time, UConn was in the American Athletic Conference. It seems like a long time ago now, as they got out ahead of conference realignment and without creating much noise, but at the time their football team was the conference’s punching bag. Getting out meant that UConn could put more energy into basketball, which it preferred to have in the Big East. This, of course, was done at the expense of an already struggling football program.
One of the coaches at UConn who had struggled thereafter the Big East collapsed for football, was Bob Diaco. He saw an issue for UConn football in the American Athletic Conference following the 2013 season. The Huskies didn’t have any true rivals in the AAC. Syracuse, Pitt, Rutgers, and the like were gone. So, he had an idea. He’d simply create a rivalry.
Diaco would settle on UCF, without actually telling UCF about it. His thinking was that UCF, coming off a Fiesta Bowl win and was at the top of the conference. They were who UConn aspired to be at the time. So, he’d put a target on their back, countdown clock and all. He even created a trophy for the game. He called it the Civil ConFLiCT game (get it, like the Civil War because it was a North vs. South game, and ConFLiCT to capitalize the FL and the CT). This would create a rivalry in Diaco’s mind, and his mind alone, which would hypothetically be great for the new conference and fans. To that end, if this was done with more tact, he was probably right. ‘
Just checked w/ @UCF_Football: "We have no involvement with the trophy or creating a rivalry game with UConn." They were surprised by tweet.— Brandon Helwig (@UCFSports) June 1, 2015
Even though UConn was all in, celebrating with the trophy they made as they beat UCF early in this series. That is, until UCF won and ignored the trophy, only to have it sit on the bench for a while after the game, until a UConn staffer went out to get the lonely trophy. Shortly after that, Bob Diaco’s time at UConn ended and the trophy went missing.
Still, the Civil ConFLiCT game went on without the trophy. UCF, at this point, had again risen to the top of the conference. UConn had fallen to be one of the worst FBS teams. The Huskies were losing upwards of $40 million annually, fan interest dwindled, and the basketball programs suffered. They made the decision, for their basketball, to move to the Big East, which meant they had to go Independent in football. Just like that, another rivalry was killed by conference realignment, just like Oklahoma-Nebraska.
This week, the Civil ConFLiCT returns as an out-of-conference game. In fact, it’s a pay game, with UCF paying UConn $1 million for this game. This is what happens when both schools need to fill their out-of-conference schedules quickly, but it’s still a shocking shift from being in the same conference just two years ago.
It would also seem like people’s opinions have shifted around this game. At one point, it was something UCF fans wanted nothing to do with. UConn fans look at it with mild amusement, another piece of their tragic time in the AAC. For both sides, there is a sort of familiar comfort in the game. Everyone knows what should happen, in terms of the final score, and both sides can come together to joke about it. In that respect, the game went from an embarrassment to be ignored and turned into something that everyone has embraced much more.
At the end of the day, college football is a game. It’s supposed to be fun. The Civil ConFLiCT is fun. It’s a piece of trivia. It’s funny. It’s a game that ultimately doesn’t matter much to either team, but has added interest because of the crazy idea of a former coach on one of the teams. This is what makes college football unique in the world of sports. It’s full of nonsense. It’s full of fun.
After all, how is the Civil ConFLiCT Trophy dumber than an Iron Skillet, a Milk Can, Bronze Stalk of Corn, or the Floyd of Rosedale? Those trophies are insane, and they’re the tip of the iceberg. The only reason they’re accepted by the world is that they’re not modern. We accept that old people had weird trophy ideas and we’ve decided that they’re tradition and that means they’re good. This is new, so it’s not allowed. The Civil ConFLiCT’s origins are dumb, but so are plenty of rivalry series.
I’ve come around on this game. I let it bother me at one point that UConn thought it could randomly start a rivalry, but life’s too short for that. This is dumb. This is fun. That’s all it needs to be to be worth our time.
When UConn left the conference, it was supposed to be the end of the Civil ConFLiCT, but they still got this one on the books. They don’t, as of right now, have any more games scheduled for the future. But, UCF does have space in the near future if they want to play this game again. However, there is a chance that this is the last time the two play for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, The Old Civil ConFLiCT is dead. Long live the new Civil ConFLiCT.