It’s been an interesting month for University of Delaware athletics, and for all the wrong reasons. Both the football and volleyball coaches were fired and the men’s and women’s basketball teams were put in their pre-season places, which weren’t very good.
The Delaware men’s basketball team was picked to finish dead last in the Colonial Athletic Association, which is no surprise considering how bad they were last year and how bare their cupboard was of promising young players, not to mention the fact that they have a new coach. The Blue Hens are rebuilding and they don’t have many tools and material with which to do it, and everyone seems to understand that cold fact.
The Delaware women’s basketball team was picked fifth, which is middle-of-the-pack in the CAA. Coach Tina Martin has consistently put out a good product over the course of her 21-year career in Newark, and not just in the Elena Delle Donne years. So, the women will fight through their schedule and history teaches us that Martin will get her team back on track at some point. They’ll never be nationally ranked again, but the UD women will be good at the mid-major level again.
As for the men, they’re already back on track, even if they’re not going to be very good this season. Delaware made what appears to be an excellent choice when they hired former Notre Dame assistant Martin Ingelsby to clean up the mess left by former coach Monte Ross. Ingelsby has proven to be just what the Blue Hens needed. He’s energetic and charismatic and he’s already managed to lure some decent recruits to Newark.
And that’s because Ingelsby is plugged into the East Coast pipeline from which Delaware mainly recruits, as well as the Midwest, where Notre Dame lives. He knows the high school coaches and, even more importantly, the AAU coaches up and down the I-95 corridor and those are critical connections to have – and those are connections Brock did not have. Time will tell whether Ingelsby has what it takes to make Delaware a consistent force in the CAA, but you have to like what you’ve seen and heard so far.
And that should be a template for the search for a football coach, too. When Delaware launches its official search for a new football coach, there are two directions in which they can go. They can hire a very successful head coach from a lower-division team, as they did in 2002 when they selected K.C. Keeler of Division III Rowan to succeed Tubby Raymond. Keeler was a former Delaware player and he led Rowan to multiple appearances in the Division III championship game, so he was an obvious and popular choice.
Or they could do what they did with the basketball team and hire a respected assistant from a high-profiled Division I program – Ingelsby was the top aide to Mike Brey at Notre Dame for 13 years and one of Brey’s best recruiters. Ingelsby knows how a successful program is run – the Fighting Irish went to the NCAA Tournament eight times when he was there. And even though Ingelsby isn’t a former Blue Hen like Keeler was, he grew up in the Philadelphia area, so he knows the neighborhood and understands the neighbors.
More than anything, UD must avoid the mistakes they made the last time they hired a football coach, when they went with Dave Brock, an assistant at Boston College. Brock didn’t have a great reputation as a recruiter and, as we’ve enjoyed pointing out in this space many times, he only got the job because of his close ties with former Delaware athletic director Eric Ziady, who also previously worked at Boston College.
Now Delaware football gets another chance to make the right decision. They need somebody who is more than a good coach on the field. They need somebody who will be the face of the franchise. They need a coach who knows talent and knows how to recruit it. And they need somebody who understands the Blue Hen fan base, which never warmed to Ziady and Brock.
That’s easier said than done, of course, but they did it in basketball. New athletic director Christine Rawak made a good decision then and the future of the once-proud Delaware football depends on her doing it again.