The Syracuse Orange continue to conduct their search for head coach. Until a coach is announced, we'll continue to profile potential candidates; but then again, what do we know?
Who's this guy?
He's Bob Diaco.
Where is he right now?
Diaco is in his second year as coach of the University of Connecticut Huskies. Diaco took over the struggling program after former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni was fired four games into the 2013 season, with T.J. Weist coaching the final eight games of the season. Diaco went 2-10 in his first year in Storrs and just completed a 6-6 season, making UConn bowl eligible for the first time since the 2010 season in which they went to the Fiesta Bowl as Big East Champions.
Where else has he been?
Everywhere Brian Kelly has been. Diaco was Kelly's co-defensive coordinator at Central Michigan in 2005, defensive coordinator at Cincinnati in 2009, and defensive coordinator at Notre Dame from 2010 through 2013. Prior to working for Brian Kelly, Diaco held defensive assistant positions at Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, and stop at Virginia from two years in between Central Michigan and Cincinnati. Diaco played linebacker at Iowa from 1992 through 1995, and was a graduate assistant there for two years after his playing career.
What do current fans think of him?
UConn fans must be pretty happy to be going bowling for the first time in 5 years. Connecticut didn't have six wins in the previous two years combined, so making a bowl game is a significant accomplishment, especially in a strong AAC this year, with Houston, Memphis, USF & Temple playing well. After Diaco's first season ended with only two wins, there was some backlash against the Diaco hire, however, going 6-6 in 2015 has quieted the critics. Diaco's defense finished in the Top 20 in fewest points allowed this year.
Random Fun Fact:
Diaco played for legendary coach Hayden Fry at Iowa. Diaco is one of twelve of Fry's former players or assistants that went on to become a Division I head football coach. The others include a group of pretty successful head coaches: Kirk Ferentz, Bob Stoops, Mike Stoops, Bill Snyder, Barry Alvarez, Brett Bielema, Dan McCarney, Chuck Long, Jim Leavitt, Bo Pelini & Mark Stoops.
Six Degrees of Syracuse:
In 2006 through 2008, Diaco coached linebackers at Virginia under Al Groh. In 1990, Al Groh coached linebackers for the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Also a member of that coaching staff was Syracuse alum Tom Coughlin who also was a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for the Orange in the late 70's under Frank Maloney.
Advantages to hiring him?
Bob Diaco's defenses have always been formidable. He has turned around a UConn program that Paul Pasqualoni ran into the ground within two years from being hired. Diaco has proven he can turn around a program and succeed as a head coach. Diaco is one of the younger head coaches in college football but he's not so young (as compared to some of the other candidates) that his age gives you pause. Diaco has experience recruiting the Northeast, both from his days at Notre Dame, and now at Connecticut. If you recall, Diaco secured a commitment from Syracuse target Ishaq Williams by camping outside of Williams' house as soon as the permissible contact period began and secured a commitment from another Syracuse target Jay Rose this year. In his coaching career, Diaco has coached in plenty of big games including the 2013 National Championship as Notre Dame's defensive coordinator.
Disadvantages to hiring him?
A lot of the coaching targets are offensive coaches with dynamic systems. Diaco is a defense-oriented coach. With the exception of Ryan Nassib's senior campaign, Syracuse's offense has been stagnant for the better part of a decade. Fans are clamoring for a coach with an offensive system that will bring excitement, points and hopefully wins. Also, while Diaco has swindled some Syracuse targets recently, he's not known as a "plus" recruiter. UConn's 2016 Class currently ranks 11th in AAC. His 2015 Class at UConn ranked 11th in AAC as well, although he was hired in the middle of that recruiting cycle. With only one good season at UConn, its not clear if the program is rehabilitated or if this season was just an anomaly.
Odds that it happens?
I'll put it at 10%. Diaco's name has been brought up by pundits as a potential candidate, but the rumor mill has been completely devoid of 'Diaco to Syracuse' rumors. A job at a power 5 school is almost always more desirable than a group of 5 school, so Diaco might be interested. Whether Syracuse has reciprocal interest is unclear. Syracuse allowed 31 points per game and ranked 90th in the FBS. Connecticut allowed fewer than 20 points per game and ranked 18th. It certainly would be intriguing to see if Diaco could make Syracuse the defensive stalwart it once was.