By Craig Haley, FCS Exec. Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The number of head coaching hirings and openings since the start of this past Football Championship Subdivision season has risen to 15 - a typical number, and perhaps one not at its apex.
But the firing of Delaware mentor K.C. Keeler on Monday showed there is nothing ordinary about the changes going on this offseason.
Few, not even Keeler, saw the stunning firing coming.
The decision ranks up there alongside Appalachian State showing the door to legendary coach Jerry Moore one day after his 24th season ended and then giving the keys of the Southern Conference power to assistant Scott Satterfield.
Keeler led the Blue Hens to an FCS national title in 2003 and two other national runner-up finishes in 11 seasons, including against Moore in 2007 when Appalachian State won the last of three straight national titles.
Of course, the 53-year-old Keeler is 20 years younger than Moore, so it's not like his career was winding down.
Coaching is a results business, obviously, but Delaware's 5-6 record this season was the Blue Hens' first losing mark since 2008, so there no doubt is more to the story than the Colonial Athletic Association school wanting to move in a different direction.
Attendance has declined while Delaware has raised ticket prices - certainly not Keeler's fault - and his outspoken style may not have meshed with the game plan of athletic director Eric Ziady, who's been on the job for three months.
The Keeler firing, which has led to Delaware starting a national search for a successor, simply adds to what isn't a pleasant topic. No, the end of a coach's reign often isn't pretty.
You can see some changes from a mile away (Southern's Stump Mitchell, who was 6-18), but others not so much, like Jacksonville State's Jack Crowe being fired as the longest-tenured head coach in the Ohio Valley Conference at 12 seasons (and with two years left on his contract) or Matt Ballard after 19 seasons at Morehead State.
Some you suspect but aren't quite sure about, like Bradley Dale Peveto running out of time in trying to get Northwestern State's program on track.
You want surprise, San Diego hired a 70-year-old coach in Dale Lindsey; Charleston Southern's 51-year-old Jay Mills, the longest-tenured among Big South coaches, decided he wanted to pursue a career in athletic administration; Cornell's Kent Austin departed for the CFL; and interim coach Jody Sears got the full-time gig at Weber State despite having a 2-9 record, albeit the Wildcats administration is thrilled John L. Smith stayed only four months.
Florida A&M's Joe Taylor, truly one of the giants among active black college coaches, decided after 233 wins that it was time to call it quits and then decided against coaching the Rattlers' final two games because he didn't want to be a distraction.
UC Davis' Bob Biggs also stepped into retirement, while Indiana State's Trent Miles (Georgia State) and San Diego's Ron Caragher (San Jose State) earned their way to both bigger jobs and salaries.
The Pioneer Football League isn't just getting an automatic playoff bid for its champion next season, it will be the home of new coaches, including Morehead State's Rob Tenyer (replacing Ballard), Davidson's Paul Nichols (replacing Tripp Merritt) and Campbell's Mike Minter (replacing Dale Steele) as well as two new programs with Stetson and coach Roger Hughes and Mercer and coach Bobby Lamb.
Charleston Southern, Florida A&M (Earl Holmes is the interim coach) and, now, Delaware are the three FCS programs still looking to fill its head coaching vacancies. Delaware, of course, is the most surprising one.
*Photo Courtesy of USD Athletics