Either the University of Delaware’s head football coach doesn’t know what he’s talking about or the rest of the coaches in the Colonial Athletic Association are clueless. Dave Brock is convinced his team will compete for the playoffs this season, but the rest of the conference coaches don’t agree – unless they think the CAA will have seven playoff teams.
Delaware players report to summer camp on Thursday with the knowledge that the other teams in the CAA don’t have much respect for them. In the coaches’ preseason poll, the Blue Hens were picked to finish seventh – seventh! – in the 12-team conference, behind No. 1 Richmond and ahead of the murderers’ row of Stony Brook, Maine, Elon, Albany and Rhode Island.
It used to be an insult if the Hens were a preseason pick as the seventh-best team in the nation, much less the conference, but this is a new and, so far, disappointing era of Delaware football.
Brock is entering his fourth season as head coach and there’s a good chance there won’t be a fifth season if the Hens have another losing record. For one thing, the man who hired him, former athletic director Eric Ziady, is gone and the new administration – which has already fired basketball coach Monte Ross – certainly feels no loyalty toward Brock.
So, no make mistake about it, this will be the decisive season in Brock’s career at Delaware. This is his make-or-break year and his peers in the conference have made it clear which way they expect it to go for Brock’s Blue Hens.
Brock, of course, has to be positive and at the CAA media day, when the Hens’ lowly preseason status was released to the public, he was upbeat about his team’s potential for this season.
“We feel like all the pieces are in place for us to be a playoff team in 2016,” Brock said. “Our goal is always to be the best team in the best conference in the country.”
Well, the CAA might still be the best conference in the country, although it’s not as dominant as it was before some of its better programs left it, but it’s pretty obvious the Blue Hens won’t be its best team. As for the playoffs, the Blue Hens haven’t been to the post-season since 2010, when most of their current players were still in grade school.
That 2010 team made it all the way to the national finals under coach K.C. Keeler, who was fired by Ziady and company a few years later, mostly because of personality conflicts. That’s why whenever we write about the current sad state of Delaware football we delight in pointing out that Keeler’s new team, Sam Houston State, has been very successful in his two years there, winning their conference and advancing to the national semifinals both years. In this year’s Athlon preseason poll of Division I-AA teams (sorry, I refuse to call it FCS), the No. 1 team, to nobody’s surprise, is North Dakota State, which has won five consecutive national championships. And the No. 2 team in the nation is none other than the Sam Houston State Bearkats.
Here’s another perspective, courtesy of CompughterRatings.com, a web site that runs a weekly Division I-AA poll. It has Sam Houston State as the fourth-best team in the country. And Delaware? Well, it has the Blue Hens as the 56th-best team in Division I-AA. You read that correctly – the Hens are No. 56 (at least that’s better than our other Division I football program, Delaware State, which is ranked at No. 116).
Pre-season polls aren’t always accurate, of course, and games and championships are won on the field, not on some website. Still, it must mean something if that many observers have such a poor impression of the Blue Hens.
If they’re right, then the Dave Brock era of Delaware football will be short and not so sweet. And K.C Keeler will be once again laughing all the way to the playoffs.