Danny Rocco to become new football coach

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Courtesy of Richmond Athletics
Danny Rocco jumps to an in-conference rival, moving from Richmond to Delaware.

BY
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

Danny Rocco will become the 23rd head coach in Delaware football history.

Rocco, 56, spent each of the last five seasons as head coach of CAA rival Richmond. Under his direction, the Spiders won three CAA titles and made three straight FCS playoff appearances. Delaware has not made the playoffs since 2010.

Rocco has 11 seasons of head coaching experience having spent six years as Liberty head coach prior to his stint at Richmond. He has guided his teams to an overall career record of 90-42. Prior to becoming a head coach, Rocco spent 22 years as an assistant coach at seven different universities. He also served as an assistant with the New York Jets in 2000.

Rumors of the hiring gained steamed Sunday evening when The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Rocco would meet with Delaware representatives Monday. The News Journal later learned that Delaware could have already had an agreement in place prior to the Monday meeting. Many news outlets reported that Rocco was heading to Delaware Tuesday morning, and Athletic Director Chrissi Rawak confirmed the hiring with The News Journal at 12:30 p.m.

Rocco had long been rumored to be one of Delaware’s top choices, but the school had to wait to until Richmond’s season ended to engage in discussions. Once the Spiders lost in the FCS quarterfinals Saturday, Delaware could take action. Delaware’s plans could have been foiled by Temple, as the reigning FBS American conference champions were rumored to be interested in Rocco to fill their head coaching vacancy after Matt Rhule departed for Baylor last week. Instead, the Owls named Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins their head coach earlier Tuesday.

Rocco will now be tasked with re-establishing a Delaware program that has been mired in mediocrity and disappointment since losing in the FCS National Championship to Eastern Washington in 2010. Delaware was 4-7 in each of the last two seasons, its first back-to-back losing seasons since 1938-1939.

Dave Brock was fired six games into the season on Oct. 16, the day following a 24-17 loss against William & Mary –– a game in which the Blue Hens led 14-3 entering the fourth quarter. Delaware was 19-22 under Brock and failed to make the playoffs in each of his four seasons as head coach. Co-defensive coordinator Dennis Dottin-Carter served as interim head coach for the final five games.

Despite winning seasons in each of the last four years, Rocco was disgruntled about the direction of Richmond football. Last season, Richmond averaged just 7,926 fans at their home games. Delaware, with a capacity to hold about 22,000, averaged 16,478. Richmond Athletic Director Keith Gill made two public pleas to reaffirm Richmond’s commitment to football and to bring Rocco back into the fold. Rocco elected otherwise.

Rocco, who is expected to bring most of his current coaching staff with him to Delaware, will inherit much of last season’s team, as just three regular starters will graduate –– safety Ryan Torzsa and offensive linemen Connor Bozick and Will Lewis.

Most eyes will be pointed towards the quarterback position where last season’s starter Joe Walker returns along with redshirt freshman Pat Kehoe and redshirt sophomore Christian Portale. The Hens struggled passing the ball, ranking last in the CAA in passing offense with 97.2 passing yards per game. Under Rocco, Richmond ranked first in the conference with 271.5 passing yards per game.

On the defensive side of the ball, Delaware returns three All-CAA selections –– linebacker Charles Bell, defensive tackle Bilal Nichols and linebacker Troy Reeder. The Hens will look to improve upon a defense that ranked 6th in the CAA a year ago.

According to ESPN, Rocco’s contract is for five seasons. Although salary figures are not made public by the university, Brock was believed to be making about $325,000 annually. In 2010, The Review discovered that former head coach K.C. Keeler earned about $310,000 annually. It is widely believed that Rocco will receive more than what he earned as Richmond head coach. As a private university, Richmond does not have to release salary figures.

Richmond is slated to travel to Newark to take on the Hens in 2017. The date has not yet been announced.

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