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December 12, 2013

Kelly lauds UConn's ‘perfect' hire

Brian Kelly will have a coaching conundrum to solve tomorrow.

For today, Notre Dame’s head coach congratulated his now former defensive coordinator, who will be introduced as the new head coach at Connecticut on Thursday afternoon.

“Connecticut hired the perfect man to lead their football program into the future,” Kelly said in a statement. “Bob Diaco possesses every characteristic necessary to be successful. He’s a top-notch recruiter, tremendous leader of young men and brilliant coach.”

Diaco won the Frank Broyles Award during Notre Dame’s BCS National Championship Game run as the Irish defense ranked second nationally in scoring and seventh in total defense. Notre Dame ranked in the top 20 in rush defense and pass efficiency defense during that 12-1 season with Manti Te’o anchoring the defense.

Diaco was promoted to assistant head coach after Kelly’s second season at Notre Dame, the last time the program underwent a staff shakeup. The Irish replaced three assistant coaches that off-season after offensive coordinator Charley Molnar left for Massachusetts while Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton took jobs at Ohio State.

Uneven with the media upon his arrival, Diaco grew more comfortable with a microphone as his run at Notre Dame extended. His speech at the Knute Rockne Memorial breakfast last March impressed the crowd in attendance and marked one of the coordinator’s few public engagements this season. He spoke to reporters just once all season, back in August during the program’s Media Day.

“Bob was arguably the top coordinator in the country as demonstrated by our defense over the last few years,” Kelly said. “He played an immense role that ultimately helped our program reach four consecutive bowl games, including the 2013 BCS National Championship game."

Paired with the departure of offensive coordinator Chuck Martin and the potential departure of Mike Elston should he follow Diaco to Connecticut, Kelly faces another staff restructuring in the coming months while trying to balance recruiting.

It’s hard to imagine Kelly departing the 3-4 after its success at Notre Dame under Diaco and the recruiting investments in the system. Diaco’s defenses allowed an average of 19.1 points per game dduring his 51 games in charge here. To put that in the context of this season, that average would rank Notre Dame in the top 20 of college football.

"Bob Diaco is a great coach who made a major impact on our program and the young men he mentored while at Notre Dame,” said athletics director Jack Swarbrick in a statement. “He loves to teach, and his passion for the young men with whom he works is evident in everything Bob does. Connecticut has found the perfect man to build a program that will deliver sustained success on the field, in the classroom and in the community."

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