If there was any doubt before, there isn’t now. Chrissi Rawak, the new athletic director at the University of Delaware, has indelibly put her stamp on the Blue Hens’ sports programs and what happens now – good and/or bad – is a direct result of the direction she has taken them.
In the space of a few months, Rawak has gotten rid of the coaches of the three most important sports at UD – football and men’s and women’s basketball. It was hard to argue with her first two decisions, when she fired football coach Dave Brock and men’s basketball coach Monte Ross, replacing them with, respectively, Danny Rocco and Martin Ingelsby.
But then the unexpected – Rawak fired women’s basketball coach Tina Martin, even though Delaware said that Martin was retiring, a statement Martin later refuted. No, she was fired, just like Brock and Ross. The difference was that Martin had consistently put out good teams, even though the last three years weren’t that great, and Brock and Ross didn’t.
Kevin Tresolini of The News Journal, in a well-reported and well-written article, made it clear that one reason Martin was fired and replaced by former Georgetown coach Natasha Adair was because Martin’s players thought she was too strict or too mean or too something – maybe they wanted her to tuck them in at night and read them a bedtime story. Whatever the reason, Martin was the sixth head coach to be replaced since Rawak took over last May, and that’s a lot of turnover in one year. And that doesn’t even include Bob Shillinglaw, UD’s lacrosse coach since who announced his retirement before the season began – and now you have to wonder if Shillinglaw really “retired” on his own or whether Rawak actually gave him the heave-ho as well.
With Martin and Shillinglaw leaving Newark, only one head coach has been at Delaware since before 2000 – swimming coach John Hayman. So, there are a lot of changes happening at UD and for the most part that’s a good thing, at least if you want the Blue Hens to be competitive in athletics in general and the Colonial Athletic Association in particular, which, for the most part, they have not.
Only one Delaware team finished first in the CAA this past academic year – the field hockey team, which went 6-0 in the conference and 23-2 overall. That was, by far, the most successful UD team of the year. There was also one second-place finisher (men’s soccer) and one third-place team (baseball, which is still playing its season). The Hens had two fourth-place teams (women’s lacrosse and basketball), one fifth-place team (softball), two sixth-place teams (volleyball and men’s lacrosse), one eighth-place team (women’s soccer), one ninth-place team (men’s basketball) and one 10th-place team (football).
Add it all up and Delaware does not have a successful athletics program, and that is what Rawak has vowed to change, starting with the people who run the teams.
And now that Rawak has gotten her people in place, it’s time for those people to get a new place. For years, Delaware has lagged behind other schools in facilities, something former football coach K.C. Keeler used to complain about constantly, on the record and off of it. For a mid-major school, things like a first-class weight room are critical. A major school can recruit top talent with its reputation for sending players to the NFL and with how many times it appears on national television. A smaller school has to dazzle recruits with state-of-the-art facilities and right now Delaware doesn’t have them.
So, that’s the next challenge for Delaware’s administration. Rawak has done what she was hired to do – shake things up. Now the university has to do its job and give all of those new coaches the help they need – bed-tucking is optional.