David Benedict exudes a calm confidence every time he speaks. You can see it in his introductory press conference, or his recent appearance on Fox61.
The new head of UConn's athletic department brought a reputation as an operations-focused handler of business matters, and for his first major act at the helm, made a bold move to strengthen the football program.
While Bob Diaco improbably brought UConn to a 6-win season and bowl appearance in his second year as head coach, his overall record is still 8-17. He still had three more seasons remaining on his original contract and a long way to go to reach the level of success from UConn's "glory days" of the Randy Edsall era.
Benedict didn't need to extend Diaco, even though Bob had received some interest from other schools. Mike Anthony of the Hartford Courant reports that Warde Manuel began contract extension conversations with Diaco in early-December. While Benedict makes it seem like he inherited a nearly done deal, he certainly didn't need to complete it.
It was his decision to make, and if he chose not to it wouldn't have been the first time a new athletic director flexed his muscle in the interest of bringing in his own hand-picked coach- especially for what is the most important athletic program with regards to conference realignment.
So what does it mean? Hopefully it means less negative recruiting against UConn about Bob eventually leaving, something which I know has been on recruits' minds even for the class of 2016. Hopefully this gesture and vote of confidence buoys Diaco's feelings for Benedict and his employment at the University of Connecticut, even though his buyout has decreased should he accept a job somewhere else.
Despite the modest raise making it more attractive to stay in Storrs, Diaco can still leave at any time and it has financially become slightly easier to do so. What this extension hopefully does is raise that bar for what kind of opportunity it would have to be. Rather than lose Diaco to a lower or mid-tier "power five" school, it may take a more established brand name, like a Michigan, Notre Dame, or his alma mater Iowa, to lure him away from Connecticut.
There is no doubt Diaco has the football program heading in the right direction, though it remains to be seen if he can take it to the next level. He will need to do so in order to earn an opportunity worth breaking this new deal for.