Delaware’s two Division I-AA college football teams have finished their seasons and for one of them, 2017 was a big step in the right direction, and the future looks bright.
For the other one? Not so much…
The University of Delaware had a successful year simply because the Blue Hens won more games than they lost in coach Danny Rocco’s first season, and they had a legitimate shot at the playoffs until the final game of the year. That’s a marked contrast from the previous few seasons, when the Hens were out of it before they had a chance to get into it.
As for Delaware State, well, it was another long, losing season in Dover, which ended with coach Kenny Carter getting fired after three seasons and an overall record of 3-30. There’s no question that Delaware fans once again have pride in their stride because of Rocco, although their season didn’t exactly end as planned – the Hens were upset by Villanova in the final game of the year, and then they were just upset when they didn’t get selected for an at-large berth to the I-AA playoffs. What really irks Rocco and others is that New Hampshire was awarded an at-large bid instead of Delaware, despite statistics that indicate the Hens should have gotten it.
But it’s hard to feel sorry for the Blue Hens. Whenever a media member asks a coach or player about an injury or an off-the-field incident or some other distraction, we always get the same canned answer: We can’t worry about that stuff because we only worry about the things that we control.
Well, the Hens had not one, but two chances to control the things they can control and they lost control, losing two of their final four games to teams that ended up with losing records. All Delaware had to do was win one of the two games in which they were favored, against Towson and Villanova, and they would be practicing today instead of planning for tomorrow. But the Hens lost the one thing that mattered the most – control. And they can’t blame the selection committee for that.
Still, 2017 it was a big step forward for Delaware after the numbness of the Eric Ziady-Dave Brock era, and now Brock will get a full recruiting season as Delaware coach, something he didn’t get last year after he was hired. And people are excited about Blue Hens football again, which is the biggest victory of all.
On the flip side, what can you say about Delaware State? The Hornets’ wheels have been spinning for years now, although it feels like decades.
Carter’s tenure was a disaster from Day 1 – he was 1-10 in his first season and 0-11 in his second and at one time his team lost 17 straight games, including 12 in the conference. Carter was the Hornets’ third coach in the last eight years and there was a definite pattern to the Delaware State careers of Carter’s two predecessors. Carter replaced Kermit Blount, whose last three seasons in Dover looked like this from a win-loss perspective: 6-5, 5-6 and 2-10. Blount was fired after that 10-loss season.
Blount’s predecessor, Al Lavan, had a mostly-good, seven-year reign with the Hornets and he actually won more games that he lost (41-37). That includes what is undoubtedly the best season in Delaware State history, when they finished 10-2 – plus a perfect 8-0 record in the MEAC – and made the Division I-AA playoffs for the first and only time.
But Lavan couldn’t maintain that unprecedented success and his three seasons after that magical 2007 run his teams went 5-6, 4-7 and 3-8.
So, despite his success, Lavan got canned and was replaced by Blount who was replaced by Carter, and things have gone from bad to worse, with no end in sight.
Now the Delaware State administration will announce a nation-wide search for a new football coach and when they find him, they’ll confidently state that this is the man who will resurrect their program. Then, three or four years from now, the same administration will fire him.
Actually, it probably won’t be the same administration, since Delaware State is constantly replacing that, too – on the same day Delaware State fired Carter it also fired interim athletic director Skip Perkins and replaced him with another interim AD, Mary Hill. So, who knows who will be calling the shots in Dover when it comes time to make this important decision? How can anyone have confidence in a school with such a bad track record?
Stability has returned to Newark, but not to Dover. Delaware and Delaware State play in the same state and in the same division, but they’re really on different planets.