UD Fires Keeler and Trades Football for Finances

If Andy Reid had taken the Eagles to three Super Bowls and won one of them, he would still be working in Philadelphia instead of Kansas City. But that kind of success, the kind most football coaches would kill for, wasn’t enough to save K.C. Keeler.

The University of Delaware fired Keeler as coach on Monday, a move that surprised everybody except the people who kicked Keeler out the door after 11 mostly successful seasons.

Like Reid’s Eagles, Keeler’s Blue Hens struggled the last two seasons, and just as Eagles fans were unhappy with Reid, many Delaware fans were unhappy with Keeler. Of course, Delaware fans are going to be unhappy unless their heroes go 11-0 and win the national championship, and even then they’d probably find something to grouse about.

Keeler wasn’t perfect, but his resume is still pretty impressive. Plus he’s a Delaware guy through and through, so it’s hard to understand why he lost his job, especially since we know almost nothing about the guy who apparently made the decision to fire Keeler, new athletic director Eric Ziady. He was brought on board just a few months ago after working at Boston College and Northeastern, and the last time we checked neither of those teams has ever won a national championship or even been to a national championship game.

In fact, if the last two years are going to be held against Keeler, well, the place Ziady just came from, Boston College, was 6-18 the last two years.

But Ziady isn’t about Ws and Ls, at least not the same way Blue Hens fans are. It’s telling that when Delaware president Patrick Harker announced Ziady’s hiring back in October, he didn’t praise the success that Ziady’s teams had or the bowl games they won – he gushed about how Ziady is “a proven revenue-generator.”

And in Ziady’s bio on the Delaware athletics website, it doesn’t list the conference or national championships or bowl games his teams have won – it raves about how he negotiated a six-year, multi-million dollar contract with Under Armour to provide equipment and funding for the athletics department.

Go team!

So, that’s what this is all about – not the success of the program on the field, but the success of the program at the bank. That’s why Ziady was hired and now, for some reason, he has decided that Keeler wasn’t the right fit. We don’t know exactly why, because all Ziady really said about it was that he wanted to take the football program “in a new direction.”

What the heck does that mean? We don’t know, because he wouldn’t say.

It’s also important to remember that it’s not just one person who is affected by Ziady’s surprising decision. Keeler’s staff hasn’t been fired yet, but any new coach is going to bring in his own assistants and that means a dozen more people will be out of a job and have their families and lives uprooted. Of course, that’s part of being a football coach and most of them will work in as many as 10 different jobs over the course of their careers. That’s just the harsh reality of the profession and the coaches who get into it know that.

Still, it just doesn’t seem right to lose your job when you’ve been doing it for many years and for the most part doing it well. And it’s even tougher to swallow when you lose it because somebody new blows into town and decides it’s time to make a change, even though he doesn’t tell us why it’s time to make a change.

Speaking of time – it’s the only thing that will tell us whether this was a good, sound move or whether it was just the whim of somebody who knows a lot more about finance than football.

Contact Kevin Noonan at [email protected].

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About the Contributor

Kevin Noonan

Kevin Noonan

Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.


  • I disagree, Kevin and I think it’s fantastic that someone who is good with finances is running the athletic department.

    Why should an education institution subsidize a sports operation that benefits only a few hundred students out of a overall student body of 20000?

    Athletics, like the Chemical Engineering, Philosophy and Music departments, should have to balance their books. In fact, the Athletic Department brings comparatively little benefit to UD, so any deficit resulting from athletic operations is more egregious than others.

    So kudos to UD for bringing in Ziady to balance the books – it shows that the UD administration at least is focused on its mission.

  • Hi Nico and thanks for reading. But I disagree with your disagreement. For one thing, the institution doesn’t subsidize football, which is the one sport that makes money. And there’s nothing wrong with making money, but that shouldn’t be the end-all of the program.

    Also, football benefits more than a few hundred students — it also brings alumni (and their wallets) back to the school and the publicity generated by a winning program is also very valuable as far as enrollment and fundraising go. As for balancing the books — they were already balanced.

  • Thanks for replying, Kevin. Much appreciated.

    That said, I think you’re wrong about the football team making money. Check with UD on that one – it’s a money-losing operation.

    As for attracting students – that’s a highly dubious claim as well. Simply look at the student section of the football stands each game. Students don’t care.

    As for “the publicity generated by a winning program,” I’m doubtful that UD’s level of football is doing anything on the admissions side and it’s not making a large difference on the donations side.

    It’s been more helpful recently with regards to the donations, but only after the new (quite controversial) donation/reseating policy was put in place. The large donations that truly make an impact only come with careful cultivation by the athletic director and football coach, and I’m willing to bet that the fact that Keeler’s not liked didn’t help tht aspect one bit.

  • Your comparison to Andy Reid makes alot of sense because both men had great loses in 2012. Andy Reid lost his son and KC lost his father and his brother. In our opinion you want your coaches to be human and have feelings as those feelings transfer to the players as well. We were always impressed with KC unwillingness to put up with any wrong doings by his players. It takes guts to not look the other way if a player is important to the team.

    Football programs do need to make money and Delaware fans have had an easy ride compared to many other schools. The money raised is used for many other things. In our opinion Mr. Ziady made a hasty decision and we hope the football program will not suffer for it.

    Both Andy Reid and KC are great coaches and will see greatness again. We only wish it would be at U of D.

  • By far one of the most idiotic moves I’ve ever observed. If you want revenue, then pick a coach who has a history of winning games, recognizing potential talent and is a motivator, which by the way, is Keeler.

    Speaking of talent, some of you might have remembered a QB called Flacco. Amazing arm.. He just finished another great season with the Ravens, won the Super Bowl and was awarded MVP. Oh and he also accepted a new contract for 125Million over 6 years.. Perhaps if Keeler was still here, UD would have received a few visits from their famous Alum Hen, and perhaps a donation to the school.

    Believe or not, sometimes it pays to be loyal.

  • I used to play for Maine. Delaware has long set the standard for winning programs. Any “new direction” for them could only be down. Dumb ass move.

  • I am a Delaware alum & agree that this was a bad move. KC played when I went to school and he was and will always be a winner.

    He did an excellent job of recruiting and always snagged a couple Division 1 transfers (Flacco included) to give the program a shot at the Title.

    I thought he would follow in the footsteps of Tubby Raymond for longevity.

    I suspended my donations to the University in protest.

  • I didn’t agree with Kevin Noonan at first, but after almost 2 seasons under Coach Brock, it is becoming apparent that Firing Keeler and replacing him with Brock was a bad decision; for the program and for the finances, as both have dropped precipitously.

  • Now UD is days away from letting go another quality, and yes winning coach, who happens to be the ONLY black head coach at UD. The current logic and long term strategy is foolhardy at best and devastating at worst.

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