Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 19:02
Since you are reading this, I am assuming you saw the story about K.C. Keeler on the front page of sports. Because thousands of students have been home for winter break, many probably did not know about Keeler’s firing until today.
K.C. Keeler, who coached the Hens from 2002 to 2012 and played as a linebacker for Delaware from 1978 to 1980, was abruptly relieved of duties on Jan. 7. He had, in my opinion, proven himself to be one of the best coaches in the country.
Not only that, but he is also a Delaware man. As a graduate of this university, Keeler has natural ties to the school. I am sure that over the past decade Keeler has had several job opportunities that he turned down because he wanted to stay at his alma mater.
Keeler’s .747 winning percentage was third among all active coaches in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). He had led the Hens to three national championship games, with the team winning one.
Sure, Delaware missed the postseason the past two years, but the future looks bright, thanks to players like junior quarterback Trent Hurley and senior running back Andrew Pierce. So, given all that I just mentioned, why on earth was Keeler fired?
Keeler had a tough task when he took over in 2002. He was succeeding his former coach, Tubby Raymond, who won 300 games with the Hens. But I would say he was doing a fine job—and probably would have kept doing a fine job, had he not been so suddenly fired.
This was such an abrupt firing. I was stunned upon reading the news that Keeler would no longer be standing on the sidelines for the Hens.
Whenever something like this takes place, it’s a certainty that the public does not know everything. Some sort of power struggle had to be going on behind closed doors, given that the university just hired a new athletic director in October.
I think it is safe to say that there was a lot more than football that went into this decision. Too bad it is a bad decision.
In his 11 years, Keeler had proven himself to be skilled at acquiring and developing talent. Why risk slipping down by unnecessarily changing coaches?
Possible off-field issues aside, I wonder if the administration simply feels that two years without a postseason berth is not good enough. Down years happen. This is not Alabama, a football-crazed environment where anything short of a title is not good enough, nor should it be.
This is the FCS. Under Keeler, Delaware has been one of the best teams in the nation, annually competing for conference titles and playoff spots. Keeler is a former Blue Hen, he has been on the job for a while, and he has been successful. What more could you want?
To replace one of the winningest coaches in the nation, Delaware hired Dave Brock, former Rutgers offensive coordinator. Brock has some decent credentials, as he also worked at Boston College and Kansas State, among other schools.
Brock might be successful, but I maintain that firing Keeler was a mistake. One of his biggest selling points is that you could be confident he would not leave Delaware. When the Rutgers head coaching position opened up in January 2012, Keeler was mentioned as a possible replacement. Of course, nothing became of that. He has proven time and time again that he is dedicated to Delaware. Or at least, he was, because the school apparently didn’t feel the same way.
To an outsider, it seems that our new athletic director decided he wanted to put his stamp on the university and bring in his man. If Brock succeeds, he will receive a lot of credit. That’s fair. But if Delaware football takes a step back, you know why.
Matt Bittle is the Copy Desk Chief at The Review. Send questions, comments and Keeler’s championship ring to firstname.lastname@example.org.