NEWARK — K.C. Keeler is no longer their coach.
But as he stood up before his Delaware football players on Tuesday evening, he wanted to leave them with one last goal.
“He was just telling us we have to stay together,” said standout running back Andrew Pierce. “We can be a great team, even though we’ve got to go through this. This can make us closer. It was pretty emotional.”
The Blue Hens were still a little bit in shock on Tuesday after finding out late Monday afternoon that Keeler had been fired as Delaware’s football coach. He held the job for the last 11 seasons.
Keeler got the chance to meet with the players on Tuesday in the team room.
Pierce, who has become an All-American after not being highly recruited out of high school, said he mostly wanted to express his gratitude to his coach.
“I just really wanted to thank him for the opportunity that he gave me and thank him for everything he did for me,” said Pierce, who was one of the team’s captains last fall.
“It’s definitely shocking — just how fast it went,” he added. “We got a text (on Monday) to meet at the Carpenter Center. We didn’t know what to expect. ... I don’t think it’s really hit any of the team yet. I’d give it a few days and then they’ll realize what happened.”
Keeler released a statement on his departure:
“First and foremost I want to thank the university for giving me the opportunity to coach at my alma mater for 11 years. This was my dream job and I am tremendously disappointed and obviously disagree with this decision. I also want to thank the many players, coaches and support staff who have worked with me over the years. Delaware was truly like family to me. I wish the university the best going forward. I am a proud Blue Hen and always will be.”
With signing day for high school recruits approaching on Feb. 6, Delaware may move quickly to fill its coaching vacancy.
One name being discussed as a potential candidate is Rutgers offensive coordinator Dave Brock. He was at Boston College with new Delaware athletic director Eric Ziady as an assistant coach in 2009-11.
Brock has been the offensive coordinator at the Hens’ former Colonial Athletic Association rival, Hofstra, as well as at Temple and Kansas State. He also spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Salisbury State.
Rutgers has no shortage of former Delaware people on its coaching staff, where former Blue Hen offensive line coach Kyle Flood just completed his first season as the Scarlet Knights’ head coach. Former Delaware defensive coordinator Dave Cohen is Rutgers’ linebackers coach while Damian Wroblewski coaches the offensive line.
In the meantime, though, it will be up to players like Pierce to help hold the team together until a new coach is hired. He said most of the players were there at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday for their scheduled conditioning session.
“Definitely everybody has questions,” said Pierce. “When the AD came in and talked, a lot of people just wanted to know what was going on and what was the biggest reason why he let Keeler go. Everybody’s a little scared and confused but we can make it through this.”
The bottom line is, the Hens have the makings of a pretty good team next fall — if they stick together. Pierce knows there’s the possibility that players will leave.
“You do have that fear,” he said. “But I just got done talking to the team and I feel like everybody is set where they want to be. They know what type of team we have coming back. They know what type of bond we have together. And they know this only can make us stronger. Whatever happens, I think we’ll be fine as a team.”
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached
at 741-8227 or email@example.com.