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Rocco out as Delaware head coach after disappointing 5-6 season

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Danny Rocco’s short stint as Blue Hens head coach came to an abrupt end on Monday morning, forcing the program to began its second head coaching search since 2016.
Courtesy of Sarah Boekholder

Managing Sports Editor

Delaware football head coach Danny Rocco was fired by the university early Monday morning, according to The News Journal’s Kevin Tresolini. Rocco was also prepared to meet with Chrissi Rawak, director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation Services at the university, according to Tresolini.

The firing comes off of a 5-6 season for the Blue Hens in which the team suffered a season-ending loss to rival Villanova at home. During much of the year, the offense had to navigate the absence of starting quarterback Nolan Henderson, who had dealt with lingering injuries since last spring and had season-ending surgery this fall.

“At the end of the day, the expectations that we have here for winning championships year-in and year-out at the conference level and the national level are real,” Rawak said in a press conference Monday afternoon. “Those were things that we fell short on the five years Rocco was here.”

Just last spring, Rocco led the Blue Hens to the FCS semifinals in a shortened regular season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Delaware went through the regular season undefeated, secured the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Championship and won two playoff games before falling 33-3 versus South Dakota State, the eventual runner-up. 

In five seasons with the Blue Hens, Rocco notched two FCS playoff appearances (2018 and 2021 spring) and totaled a 31-23 record. After last spring’s playoff run, Rocco was named the CAA Coach of the Year.

Rawak noted that she has asked Jerry Oravitz, associate director of athletics, and Chris Stewart, head football strength and conditioning coach, to lead the team during the transitioning process. Despite no official interim head coach, the assistant coaches will have an opportunity to stay with the program pending the new head coach’s decisions, according to Rawak.

The news comes after Tresolini tweeted that redshirt senior linebacker Colby Reeder was entering the transfer portal, along with fellow teammates.

Rocco was one of Rawak’s biggest hires at the university after her start as the acting athletic director in July of 2016. That fall, previous head coach Dave Brock was fired and the team finished 4-7 (2-6 CAA), leading to a nationwide search for a replacement.

Prior to taking over at Delaware, Rocco was 47-20 at Liberty University from 2006-2011 and 43-22 at the University of Richmond from 2012-2016. 

He led the Spiders to three playoff runs and three CAA Championships in his five years before making the switch to a conference rival. However, the Spiders dealt their former head coach one of his final losses with the Blue Hens in the penultimate game of this past campaign.

Before Brock’s tenure with the program, the Blue Hens had just two head football coaches since 1966. College Football Hall of Famer Tubby Raymond led the program from 1966 to 2001, amassing 300 wins and three national championships before his retirement.

To replace Raymond, the university hired K.C. Keeler, who went 86-52 from 2002 to 2012. Keeler enjoyed great success with the program, tallying one national championship, three national championship game appearances and three conference titles.

However, after a 5-6 campaign in 2012, Keeler was fired in the middle of a 10-year contract. After a year off from coaching, he took Sam Houston State’s head coaching vacancy, and has put up 79 wins with the Bearkats that includes a national championship last spring.

“We’re going to be starting a national search here very, very soon,” Rawak said. “I’m really leading the search, but partnering with Korn Ferry. Having help to do background checks and conversations that I can’t necessarily have just serves us well.” 

This national search comes off the heels of the firing of men’s soccer head coach Ian Hennessy, in which a national search was also conducted by the university.

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