NCAAF Teams
Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer 12d

The search for the Civil ConFLiCT trophy

College Football, UCF Knights, Connecticut Huskies

Missing: The Civil ConFLiCT trophy

Last known whereabouts: Oct. 22, 2016, on the bench at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut.

Approximate time it went missing: 5:24 p.m. ET

Witness statements: "I didn't even know there was a trophy to be taken," UCF nose guard Jamiyus Pittman said.

"I really don't know where that trophy is," UConn linebacker Junior Joseph said.

"We just want to compete for the trophy that matters, which is the championship trophy," UConn tight end Tommy Myers said.

Where could the trophy have gone?

Truth be told, there are many suspects who would have loved to see the Civil ConFLiCT Trophy smashed to bits, if only to officially end the (year) long national nightmare that unfolded after former UConn coach Bob Diaco officially unveiled his creation.

Background information: It all began in November 2014, after UConn beat UCF 37-29. Diaco, in Year 1 with the Huskies, told reporters after the game that he wanted to create a rivalry with the Knights.

Mind you, the teams had played twice.

Ever.

Also ... UCF already has a rival that is, oh, 90 miles down the road. In the same state.

But, really, why let these details get in the way of the approximately 1,000th college football "trophy" game? Forget about the Little Brown Jug and The Shillelagh. Diaco had something better in mind. "We're excited about this North-South battle. You want to call it the Civil Conflict?" he told reporters without one hint of sarcasm.

Reporters chuckled.

"Maybe I'll win my money and make a trophy. I'll buy it myself. Put a big giant Husky and a big giant Knight on it. Make a stand. Put it in our hallway. The Civil Conflict. The loser, maybe they've got to put nutmeg on the stand when it's not there, and we'll put a sack of oranges."

More chuckles.

If only the laughter had ended there.

In the spring, Diaco showed up at the conference's spring meetings with ideas about how to create rivalries in the fledgling conference as a way to generate more buzz and attention. He says he ran his idea about the Civil Conflict past the group. He says he ran it past his athletic director at UConn and made calls to UCF.

He was doing this.

On June 1, 2015, the official UConn Twitter account unveiled the trophy in all its ... glory? Complete with a countdown clock until the next UCF game!

The ridicule that ensued was almost instantaneous. Tweets poured in:

What a joke!

Stop pretending you matter!

This might be the saddest thing I've seen in my life!

UCF disavowed any knowledge of the trophy, saying in a statement, "We have no involvement with the trophy or creating a rivalry game with UConn."

A week later, a defiant Diaco defended the "rivalry" to the New Haven Register: "They don't get to say whether they are our rival or not. We might not be their rival, but they don't get to say whether they are our rival -- that is for us to decide."

Um, OK.

"They said there was a trophy, and we kind of giggled and were like, 'Are they serious?'" UCF tight end Jordan Akins said. "We have no idea why. We have no idea where he was trying to go with it."

Myers tried to be diplomatic: "I think that rivalry was a good thought, but it wasn't executed very well."

UConn beat UCF in 2015, so the trophy got to stay in Connecticut.

But Scott Frost took over as UCF coach for the 2016 season and soon became aware that there was a "rivalry" game that needed his attention.

Shortly before the teams played in October, Frost said UCF asked UConn not to bring the trophy on to the field. They were officially opting out of the rivalry game.

"We decided we wanted to treat every game the same, so we told them we weren't going to accept the trophy if we won," Frost said.

UConn brought the trophy out, anyway. When UCF won, the trophy sat abandoned on a cold, metal bench. Later, a UConn staffer was seen covering the trophy with a towel.

"With a new coaching staff and a new regime coming into UCF there was really no knowledge of the trophy," UCF left tackle Aaron Evans said. "It wasn't personal. It wasn't meant to be offensive. They're fabricating a rivalry that -- what is the rivalry?"

"After we won that game and we got on the bus and everybody was saying that 'We left the trophy! We left the trophy!' And I was like, 'What?'" Pittman said. "There's no conflict here."

"I had no idea the trophy was on the sideline," Frost said. "We certainly didn't leave it there intentionally. We informed them beforehand we weren't going to take part in it, and I didn't know even that it was on the field until after I read all the tweets and media reports that it was left there."

"I treat every game the same, and I don't care if there's a trophy or not," Myers said. "If there's a trophy involved so be it, but it doesn't bother me that they left it."

The trophy was last seen being put back in its crate, but nobody can recall which staffer boxed up the trophy.

Nobody can recall whether the trophy ever made it back to campus.

The following week, a defeated Diaco announced at his weekly news conference that the trophy would no longer be a part of the UConn-UCF game, sounding part conspiracy theorist, part beaten-down mad scientist.

"I didn't create this thing out of nowhere," Diaco said. "Did I think of the idea? Yeah, I did. This wasn't one-sided until they decided that it should be, and you know why that happened. I'm sure everyone could connect the dots on that one.

"It was well-intended. I apparently failed."

A reporter asked what would become of the actual trophy.

"You want to make a coat rack out of it?" Diaco said, never divulging where, exactly, the trophy had been placed.

Investigation update: In late December, UConn fired Diaco. Athletic department officials had the entire football facility searched to find the trophy.

They came up empty.

Diaco, now defensive coordinator at Nebraska, declined an interview request about the trophy's whereabouts.

And so, what became of the Civil ConFLiCT Trophy remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of our time.

The final word: This week, in the run-up to the first UCF-UConn game in the post-Civil ConFLiCT era, Diaco and Frost both weighed in.

Frost, via AAC conference call: "Is that an honest question? No, we have no idea. In fact, we've wondered where it is. We told them before the game last year we weren't going to take the trophy if we won. It found its way to the sideline for some reason. The pictures on social media of it on the sideline were the last I'd seen of it."

Diaco, via the Omaha World-Herald: "I've eliminated it from my mind. I put the experience in a chest, locked it, dumped it into the ocean, and I threw away the key. That's the important thing. I've thrown the key away. I don't even know 'it" or what you're talking about because I've eliminated that whole painful part from my mind."

Tips line: If you have any information on the whereabouts of the Civil ConFLiCT trophy, drop us a line at CivilConflictTips@gmail.com

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