A new day has dawned for University of Delaware athletics, even though we won’t know for a year or two whether that day will be sunny or cloudy.
There have been dramatic changes at Delaware in recent months, and none more dramatic than the bolt of lightning that struck on Sunday when Dave Brock was dismissed as coach of the football team.
It’s not surprising that Brock would be fired eventually, given his record, but it’s shocking that it happened six games into the season.
That’s about as cold as it gets, especially since everyone says nice things about Dave Brock the person, even though they’ve been grumbling about Dave Brock the coach. Regardless of his record, Brock deserved to finish this season with the players he recruited and trained, players who continued to play hard for him even if they didn’t always play well.
So, why would athletic director Christine Rawak make this move now? It certainly won’t turn the season around.
The 2-4 Blue Hens have zero chance of making the Division I-AA playoffs and the new coach will basically run the same offense and defense as the old coach, simply because it’s too late to change and also because it’s partially his creation, as well – defensive assistant Dennis Dottin-Carter will lead the Hens through the rest of the 2016 season.
And it won’t help the Hens get a jump in their search for a new coach, since any worthy coach – whether he’s currently a head coach or an assistant – is already involved in his own season and won’t be able to talk turkey with the Hens until the football season is over.
So, why now?
The reason is pretty obvious — to send a message. The perception of Delaware’s athletics administration hasn’t been good for a long time. Fans and supporters, including alumni who donate money to the school, felt disenfranchised.
And even though the previous administrations said all the right things about respecting Delaware’s proud tradition and being involved in the community, the alumni and fans still felt like they were being held at arm’s length by a bunch of outsiders. It wasn’t their team anymore.
This was especially true of the football program, the flagship of Delaware’s athletic armada. Blue Hens fans – spoiled by decades of success and puzzled by the abrupt firing of former coach K.C. Keeler, who won national championships at Delaware as a player and a coach — were even more puzzled at the hiring of Brock, who had no previous head coaching experience.
But then they discovered that Brock was hired by an old friend – he worked with former A.D. Eric Ziady when both were at Boston College – and that cronyism didn’t help Brock get accepted by the Blue Hens faithful, who have been shrinking in numbers faster than newspaper subscribers. So, the blame for the ill-fated Brock era really rests with Ziady, who supposedly conducted a nation-wide search (just as Rawak says she will) before picking somebody from his own neighborhood.
Everything would have been fine, of course, if Brock’s Blue Hens had won. And they did in his first season, when his roster was still stocked with Keeler’s players. But Brock’s teams could never get any traction after that. And certainly the way his team lost their last two games, on late turnovers, didn’t help matters. So, the new AD, faced with fed-up fans and up-in-arms alumni, decided it was time to show everyone that there’s a new sheriff in town.
Brock probably expected to finish out the season when he was called into Rawak’s office, where he was thanked for his hard work and dedication and then fired. And it’s easy to feel sorry for Brock, who inspired loyalty from his coaches and players. We don’t know if he was in over his head or just couldn’t catch a break. We don’t know if he was a bad coach or a bad recruiter, but we do know that he didn’t win nearly enough and the new administration apparently believed he never would.
At least the Blue Hens and their faithful followers now have a reason to be optimistic even though they have no idea who their new coach will be, because an unknown future has to be better than the known present. And who knows – maybe this time they’ll get it right.