What seemed like an average Wednesday night for Nebraska football fans actually turned into a monumental phone call. Nebraska head coach Mike Riley dialed up his friend of 20 years and told him he no longer had a job at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
Riley made the decision to not renew his life-long assistant and buddy, Mark Banker’s contract as Nebraska’s defensive coordinator on Jan. 11. This unexpected and sudden news came as a surprise to the rest of the staff, players and fans.
Who would replace Banker after two years in Lincoln? A man named Bob Diaco.
When fans first heard the news of the recent hire of new defensive coordinator Diaco, they asked the same question when they heard Mike Riley would be the new head coach two years ago. “Is this really the best guy we can get?”
The former UConn head coach has a long list of experience on his résumé, despite being just 43-years-old. Since his first job as a graduate assistant at his alma matter in Iowa in 1996, Diaco has been a defensive specialist for more than 20 years.
Diaco’s claim to fame was during his three years as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. In 2013, Diaco coached NFL linebacker Manti Te’o and led his defense to the national championship game against Alabama.
After Diaco’s success at Notre Dame, the New Jersey native took a job as the head coach at the University of Connecticut in 2014. Unfortunately for the young coach, the brief three-year stay was underachieved, and he finished with an overall record of 11-26. Diaco was released from the University this year after finishing 3-6 on the year. Nebraska quickly swooped in and made the move to hire him as defensive coordinator. Was this a plan in the making?
It appears that Riley had a plot brewing for quite some time after this season. Nebraska logged four losses on the year, but it was the way they lost that had most fans upset. Something had to change in Lincoln, and according to the Omaha World-Herald, Banker knew it.
“It’s easy—62 points against Ohio State, 40 points against Iowa and 38 in the bowl game,” Banker said. “Big plays. All those things. That’s what people don’t like.”
Since being relieved of his head coaching duties, Diaco can now return to his specialty, and can ooze all of his focus on the 11 Black-shirts. He’s been successful once, who’s to say he can’t do it again?
After frantic Google searches of Diaco, Nebraska fans realize that this guy could be the change the Huskers needed to become a playoff contender each year. He could be the small addition to finally clinch those late-game, close fourth quarter battles the Huskers have been prone to losing the last few years.
Bob Elliott, a former colleague of Diaco, voiced his opinion on the young defensive specialist.
“I think that this is a great opportunity,” Elliott said. “I think Nebraska is getting maybe the best defensive coordinator in the country, in my opinion anyway, and I think Bob is going to a place that’s just ripe for success in the Big Ten West.”
Diaco mentioned his appreciation of the history Nebraska has to offer in it’s football program. In his first interview as a Nebraska coach on Sports Nightly, Diaco noted that Riley and the tradition were the two big reasons why he took the job in Lincoln.
“If you love college football and you live in the continental United States, then you know Nebraska football,” Diaco said. “And if you’re a defensive coach or player, you know the Blackshirt defense.”
So, who is Bob Diaco? Only time will tell for Husker fans, but the clock in Lincoln always seems to tick faster than usual.