UConn fires football coach Diaco after 3-9 third season
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STORRS, Conn. (AP) UConn fired football coach Bob Diaco on Monday after his third losing season, choosing to cut ties rather than allow Diaco to rebuild a struggling offense.
Diaco will be relieved of his duties effective Jan. 2, university officials said.
The move was surprising in its timing a month after the Huskies season ended but it made financial sense for the university. The buyout on Diaco's contract drops from $5 million to $3.4 million after Jan. 1.
"I believe a new leader for our program and student-athletes is needed to build long-term success," athletic director David Benedict said.
Diaco said he hoped things would have played out differently but that he'll continue to root for UConn to succeed.
The Huskies were 11-26 under Diaco in three seasons, including 3-9 this season. UConn's best finish under Diaco was last year, at 6-7 and a losing trip to the St. Petersburg Bowl.
The bowl season was a four-game improvement over Diaco's first season, giving UConn fans a hopeful sign for future seasons and prompting the university to give Diaco an extension. But the Huskies slid back badly this season and decided to make a change.
Without mentioning the buyout, Benedict said the timing of the move may be surprising but the program needs a change in direction.
UConn officials say the search for a new coach will begin immediately.
Diaco was Notre Dame's defensive coordinator when he was hired by UConn to replace Paul Pasqualoni, who was fired four games into his third season.
While at Notre Dame, Diaco was the 2012 winner of the Frank Broyles Award, given to the top assistant college football coach in the country. He was a semifinalist for the award in 2011.
Diaco coached the Huskies to wins in three of their last four regular season games of the 2015 season, including a win over Houston, which was ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press Poll at the time of the game.
The Huskies finished this season losing their last six games. Diaco replaced his offensive coordinator midway through the season, and switched quarterbacks with three games to go, burning the redshirt of star recruit Donovan Williams.
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Updated December 26, 2016