Notre Dame Football: Bob Diaco's Departure Marks the End of an Era

Keith Arnold@@KeithArnoldNotre Dame Lead WriterDecember 12, 2013

It's the end of an era in South Bend. 

In the past eight days, Brian Kelly's two most trusted lieutenants have left the program. This has completely changed the identity of the Irish coaching staff. 

Last week, offensive coordinator Chuck Martin accepted the Miami (OH) head coaching position two seasons after taking over as head of the offense. On Wednesday night,'s Bruce Feldman was the first to report that defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has taken the UConn head coaching job. 

Winner of the 2012 Broyles Award, which is given to the country's top assistant coach, Diaco has reportedly signed a five-year deal that will pay him $1.5 million a year. 

Documenting Diaco's success as a coordinator only paints part of the picture on why he'll be so badly missed by Notre Dame. Inheriting a severely underperforming defense, Diaco rebuilt the Irish into a physically dominating group that went toe-to-toe with the heavyweights on the Irish schedule.

From 2010-13, Notre Dame gave up an average of 19.1 points per game, good for ninth-best in the country in that time frame.

Considering the schedule the Irish played and the personnel Diaco inherited, there's no question he's earned the opportunity to lead a program. 

But for as good as Diaco is strategically, his real impact on the Irish program was what he did behind closed doors. The former All-Big Ten linebacker was beloved by his playersa testament to his energy, passion and love for his team.

Stressing fundamentals, trust and loyalty, Diaco instilled a belief system in a group that was mentally scarred from the hard luck, hard coaching and multiple schemes employed under Charlie Weis

In his first spring coaching the Irish defense, Diaco started a rallying cry among his defense.

"B.I.A." was heard chanted as the defense broke a huddle or sprinted between practice stations. The acronym stood for "Best In America," a title that drew chuckles from those that had followed the deterioration of the Irish defense in the years after Lou Holtz stepped down.

However, the title turned out to be far from aspirational. In 2012, Diaco almost made good on the mantra, with the Irish defense giving up just 12.8 points a gamesecond to only Alabama. 

That Diaco departs South Bend this offseason and not after last year's historic campaign likely says more about Diaco than his opportunities.

Sitting with the assistant coach in the final minutes of Notre Dame's media session before the team's BCS title shot against Alabama, Diaco explained to me how easy it was for him not to take the head coaching opportunities that swirled around him seriously.

Even if some job openings were perfect fitsBoston College, for oneDiaco couldn't walk away from his team in the days before the Irish played for their first title 24 years. It was antithetical to his belief system as both a coach and man. 

The New Jersey native moves back to the East Coast, inheriting a 3-9 team that fired head coach Paul Pasqualoni. He'll get started rebuilding a program that's in desperate need of an infusion of energy, something Diaco will solve within minutes of arriving in Storrs. 

After remarkably keeping his staff together after the 2012 season, Kelly will now need to replace both coordinators.

More than just finding good coaches or promoting from within, Kelly will also need to find assistants capable of filling the gigantic shoes both Martin and Diaco leave behind. 

Elite head coaches like Pete Carroll and Nick Saban have done this time and again. Now Kelly will be tasked with doing the same, with his third Irish coordinator getting a head coaching job in the past three years.

During Notre Dame's run under Holtz, the Irish replaced assistants almost yearly, the head coach remaining the only constant during the Irish's roll.

Kelly will have the chance to prove he's capable of doing just that. 


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