Any number of administrators and boosters from FBS power programs would be wise to pay attention to this week’s Football Championship Subdivision ranking, which has Sam Houston State No. 1.
Sam Houston State’s been a stalwart of the FCS for the last half-decade, appearing in each of the last five Playoffs, with two national championship game appearances and four runs to the semifinals. The Bearkats will make it six straight postseason appearances in 2016, barring an unlikely collapse in the second half. This marks the second time in the last two seasons under head coach K.C. Keeler that Sam Houston State reached No. 1.
Take note, Notre Dame, Oregon, Arizona or any number of FBS programs with recent success but a current rough patch. Keeler’s success pertains to you.
Keeler’s ‘Kats take over No. 1 on the same week Delaware fired Dave Brock, an interesting bit of cosmic coincidence. Brock started 2016 2-4, with an 0-2 start in the deep Colonial Athletic Association. The Blue Hens have yet to draw the meat of CAA competition, with Stony Brook, Albany, Richmond and Villanova all still to come, likely ensuring Delaware its third straight losing season.
Brock’s sole winning record came in 2013, immediately after succeeding Keeler as Blue Hens head coach.
Keeler’s firing serves as an unlikely precursor to the current wave of successful coaches landing on the hot seat at the first sign of trouble. Such attitudes have reached a fever pitch in the 2016 college football season.
Four of the last five national runners-up were considered under varying degrees of pressure at various points in the season. For Les Miles, that pressure reached a head with his firing last month. Mark Helfrich and Brian Kelly are two of the more popular names offered up for this offseason’s chopping block. Only Gus Malzahn’s earned a temporary reprieve with his Auburn Tigers exceeding expectations.
Whether driven by media or overzealous fans, such sentiment has run rampant enough that a program without much historic success, like Arizona, is having to call on its AD to shoot down hot-seat rhetoric.
Success has come to be somewhat damning for a coach in the long run, and that was certainly the case for Keeler. He led Delaware to a national championship in 2003, and came one possession away from landing the Blue Hens a second less than two calendar years prior to his dismissal. UD’s learned over the last few seasons why the old adage about greener grass has remained popular for generations.
Perhaps Keeler’s success at Sam Houston State commensurate with Delaware’s struggles are anomalous. The sample size on successful coaches given a quick hook is relatively small, given the recency of this phenomenon. In the early stages, though, it doesn’t seem like the ideal course of action. Georgia coming off a Homecoming weekend loss to Vanderbilt might agree (even if it’s far too early to judge Kirby Smart between the hedges or Mark Richt at The U.).
As for Keeler at Sam Houston State, however, he didn’t exactly go back to the drawing board and redefine his style. The Bearkats win with a prolific passing attack (second-best in FCS), much like Keeler’s Delaware teams, but balance the workload effectively with the run (12th in FCS).
Perhaps Keeler was just unable to rekindle that same kind of magic at Delaware. Because of the administration’s lack of patience, we’ll never know. Do you hear that, power programs?