UConn's Diaco: "Everybody is good to go"
Teaching more than 250 women a variety of drills, helping them study film and even allowing themselves to have their ankles taped by the participants made for a rather giddy evening of football.
The reality, however, is that much of their time in the coming weeks will not be all fun and games. If UConn is to take the next step in its march to respectability and beyond, the workout sessions between now and the start of preseason practice will be a crucial piece of the puzzle.
The players recently returned to school after the end of the spring semester and UConn coach Bob Diaco liked what he saw when the players reported.
"I think we are getting the understanding that there is no time off, there is time away," Diaco said. "They went home , went back to their communities, took a little vacation but they had active rest time. They were able to come back, pick up and start moving forward. It wasn't like you took four weeks and they came back at Ground Zero, they are ready to work and get better."
While I won't know for sure if there are any surprise departures from the team until the fall roster is posted on the official site, Diaco said "I think everybody is good to go. I don't know of any issues."
Another topic that excited Diaco was seeing his co-defensive coordinators Anthony Poindexter and Vincent Brown both on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot.
"I can't imagine there is another football staff that has two potential College Hall of Fame members, that is an awesome thing for them," Diaco said. The accolades for UConn and national prominence just keeps going on and on and on."
Diaco referenced the success of the women's and men's basketball programs and also the baseball team on multiple occasions as he addressed the future of his own program.
Speaking of successful programs at UConn, AD David Benedict was at tonight's event and he admitted that things are kind of settling down after a hectic first few months on the job.
"Up until last night, I can't even tell you what the schedule has been like over the last three weeks but it has been good," Benedict said. "The great thing about the pace is I have really been able to get out and see as many people, get out and visit with the programs that I have both basketball and baseball. The most excited and energized I get is when I really get time to spend with the student-athletes because that is why we do what we do."
Obviously Benedict was asked to weigh in on the recent Big 12 meetings and the potential of UConn landing in the Big 12 or another conference. His response was similar to what he said on the day he was introduced as UConn's AD. He also admitted that he was more concerned about attending his first American Athletic Conference meetings than what was taking place at the Big 12 event.
"That was my first opportunity and experience," Benedict said. "For me, there was a lot of learning, a lot of listening. I think anytime you come into that kind of environment, to go in and start talking a lot is probably the wrong approach, at least it is for me. I was doing a lot of listening, a lot of learning and I need to understand where UConn fits in and how we can make our conference stronger because that is our conference.
"I have said many times that my goal and the goal of our coaches is to dominate the conference we are in. I think there are a lot of good things about our conference, I think we can continue to improve, grow the prominence of our conference and I think that bodes well. The only programs that anybody is talking about moving are all in conference for the most part so that tells you about the strength of our conference. I am excited about the future, getting to work with those individuals about how we can raise the level of national credibility that our conference (has)."
As for the UConn football program, Benedict drew a parallel to the Auburn softball program which was playing for a national title on Wednesday night.
"(Auburn softball coach) Clint Myers is probably one of the elite coaches across all sports, across all levels that I have ever been around," Benedict said. "He has won national championships everywhere he has ever been. He is truly an incredible leader of young individuals in addition to being one of the best coaches in the country. To see what he has been able to do with changing that culture there, they had never been beyond the first round of an NCAA tournament to this is the second year in a row they are in the college World Series and now they are one win away from winning a national championship. To me that demonstrates the ability (just) as Coach Diaco and his staff is changing the culture, setting the bar really high. I wasn't here but I have heard the bar that he set. I think it takes setting high expectations, having high standards and that is what I see in our football program."
Here are some videos from tonight's event