Eric Ziady was part of the administrative team at the University of Delaware that got rid of K.C. Keeler. And now it’s Ziady who has been gently shoved out the door. It appears that the only thing you can depend on at Delaware these days is that you can’t depend on anything at all.
Ziady had been the athletic director for a little over three years when the school fired him earlier this week, although Delaware was nice enough to make it appear that he resigned to pursue other opportunities, whatever that means. I don’t know Ziady, never even talked to him, and I’m sure he’s a warm, wonderful person. And as somebody who has been laid off before, I certainly hate to see anybody lose his job. But it’s hard to defend Ziady’s tenure in Newark, because as athletic director he failed miserably, at least when it comes to winning.
Yeah, we know, this is just college, and they’re student athletes, and winning shouldn’t be the only thing that matters. But it should be an important thing. Certainly, being competitive in your conference should be an important goal for the head of your athletic department and Delaware has failed to do that.
And then there was the Keeler fiasco. Ziady also had a hand in that, despite the fact that Keeler was a loyal and long-time member of the Delaware family and was highly (although not always) successful as a football coach. That certainly didn’t endear Ziady to the faithful fans who used to fill Delaware Stadium every Saturday in the fall.
By the way, we can’t help put point out that Keeler had another stellar season at his new job at Sam Houston State in Texas. Last year, in his first season with the Bearkats, Keeler went 11-5, won his conference title and made it to the semifinals of the NCAA tournament. This year, Keeler went 11-4 and again won his conference and took the Bearkats to the semifinals. So, in the last two years, K.C. Keeler has won almost as many playoff games (seven) as Delaware has won total (10).
But it’s not just football that has struggled to be respectable lately. Over the last year, men’s teams at Delaware have a combined record of 55-91 and their best showing in the Colonial Athletic Association was third, by the soccer team, which was one of only three men’s sports to have a winning record (10-7-1). The average CAA finish by the Blue Hen men was sixth, and don’t forget, this isn’t your big brother’s CAA any more — defections have watered down the competitive level of this league, and still Delaware is middle-of-the-pack, at best.
That includes the two sports that matter the most, football and basketball — and when we say they matter the most it’s because they’re the only sports that generate revenue for the school. The football team finished 4-7 and tied for seventh place in the CAA and the basketball team finished 10-20 and tied for sixth. This is not how you showcase your athletic department to potential recruits or just potential students. Athletics is an important part of the branding process for a university and Delaware hasn’t had much to be proud about lately.
The women’s teams at Delaware have been more successful, going 105-89 over the last year, although the women’s teams also failed to dazzle in the conference — there was one second-place finish (field hockey) and two thirds (lacrosse and golf), but the average CAA finish for the women’s teams was fifth.
Nobody expects the Blue Hens to dominate the CAA, but everybody should expect them to be competitive. But they haven’t been, and that had to have played a part in Delaware’s decision to replace the A.D. it hired not that long ago. But that hire was made by a different school president and it’s never been more apparent that the times have changed in Newark and will continue to change, depending on who is sitting in the biggest chair at the time.