Bob Diaco, who served on the Notre Dame coaching staff as the defensive coordinator for the past four years and the assistant head coach for the past two, has been named the head football coach at the University of Connecticut – the 30th in school history.
Diaco was the 2012 winner of the Frank Broyles Award, given to the top assistant college football coach in the country and was the first Irish assistant to receive the prestigious award. He was a semifinalist for the award in 2011.
Diaco joined the Notre Dame staff in 2010 as defensive coordinator and inside linebacker coach, took responsibility for the entire linebacker position in 2011, and added responsibilities as associate head coach in 2012.
His 2012 Irish defense ranked among the top 10 in the Football Bowl Subdivision in 12 different categories, as the school played in the BCS National Championship Game and posted an overall record of 12-1.
Diaco has an impressive coaching resume. He served at Virginia (2006-08) as the linebackers and special teams coordinator, and Cincinnati (2009) as the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach, before joining the Notre Dame staff.
A native of Cedar Grove, N.J., and a 1995 Iowa graduate, Diaco began his coaching career in 1996-97 as a graduate assistant at his alma mater. He then served on the staffs of Western Illinois (1999-2000) as the special teams coordinator and running backs coach, Eastern Michigan (2001-2003) working with the same positions, and Central Michigan (2005) as the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
Diaco has coached in eight post-season games, including the BCS title game with Notre Dame in 2012 and the Sugar Bowl with Cincinnati in 2010. He played in three bowl games as a student-athlete at Iowa.
He was a two-time All-Big Ten selection at Iowa as a linebacker under Hall of Fame coach Hayden Fry and was named the team’s co-MVP in 1995, starting in all 23 games over his junior and senior seasons.
Diaco has developed a national reputation as one of the top defensive coaches in the game. Notre Dame has allowed an average of 19.08 points per game over the last four seasons, which ranks as the ninth-best average over 2010-13 of any team in the FBS.
His 2012 Irish defense ranked second in the FBS in scoring defense – allowing just 12.77 points per game. Notre Dame only allowed 15 offensive touchdowns – four fewer than any other FBS school. The Irish held six opponents without an offensive touchdown and nine foes to one or fewer offensive touchdowns.
Under Diaco’s coaching, linebacker Manti Te’o was the 2012 winner of Nagurski Trophy, Lott Trophy, Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, Bednarik Award, Maxwell Award, and Walter Camp Player of the Year. Te’o was also the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.
Diaco’s 2011 defense ranked in the top 50 in scoring defense (24th, 20.7), total defense (30th, 344.7), rushing defense (47th, 138.9) and passing defense (38th, 205.8). It was only the second time since 2003 and fourth time in the last 15 seasons a Notre Dame defense ranked in the top 50 in all four categories. The Irish played in the Champs Sports Bowl following that season.
In his first season at Notre Dame in 2010, Diaco switched defensive schemes from a blitzing 4-3 defense the Irish utilized in 2009 and installed a 3-4 no-crease defense. Diaco’s defense immediately became better, as the Irish allowed 5.69 fewer points per game, 40.5 fewer yards per game, averaged one half sacks more per game, and forced more turnovers in 2010 than 2009. The Irish played in the Sun Bowl that season.
In his only season at Cincinnati (2009), he was charged with replacing 10 starters on the Bearcats’ defense, including every player on the front seven for 2009. The Bearcats recorded 110 tackles for loss in 2009 (8.46 per game) to rank third in the nation. They totaled 37 sacks and tied for 10th in the country averaging 2.85 sacks per contest. Cincinnati’s defense allowed 3.6 rushing yards per carry. Diaco groomed safety Aaron Webster in a First Team All-Big East pick.
Prior to Cincinnati, Diaco spent three years as the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator on Al Groh’s coaching staff at the University of Virginia from 2006-08. At the conclusion of the 2008 season, he was promoted to the Cavaliers’ defensive coordinator position, but he left two months later to take the same position at Cincinnati. Virginia played in the Gator Bowl following ’07.
Diaco’s linebackers were critical to Virginia allowing only 3.7 yards per carry and just over 21 points per game to their opponents in 2008. Only four schools permitted fewer rushing touchdowns than Virginia’s nine in 2007, and the Cavaliers allowed 106.9 rushing yards per game, 13th in the nation. Virginia ranked 16th nationally at 19.7 points allowed per game and was 23rd in total defense, allowing 332.5 yards per game. Linebacker Clint Sintim led the nation in sacks by a linebacker in 2007.
In his only season at Central Michigan (2005), Diaco turned around CMU’s rushing defense that just two years earlier had ranked last in the Mid-American Conference. Under his watch, Central Michigan led the MAC, allowing only 113.7 rushing yards per game. He also helped defensive end Dan Bazuin lead the nation with 26.5 tackles for loss and tie a MAC record with 16 sacks.
He coached the special teams and linebackers at Western Michigan from 1999-200. The punting, punt return and kickoff return units all finished in the top three of the MAC.
Diaco’s first full-time position was at Western Illinois, where he was the running backs coach and special teams coordinator in 1999 and 2000. The Leathernecks won the Gateway Conference crown in 2000 and made an appearance in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs.
Diaco and his wife Julia have two sons – Angelo and Michael – and a daughter Josephine.