Sam Houston State announced Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler as the program's 15th head coach on Thursday morning.
Multiple sources told FootballScoop that athletics director Bobby Williams recommended to Sam Houston's Board of Regents that the Bearkats hire former Northwest Missouri State head coach and current athletics director Mel Tjeerdsma, but he was ultimately overruled by school president Dana Gibson, who felt Tjeerdsma's age (he is 67 years old) was too much of a concern to pull the trigger. "This is how the AD thinks about it," a source told FootballScoop, "These upper-level FCS jobs are stepping stones, three-to-five years tops. Mel has three-to-five years. He is an outstanding coach." The source told FootballScoop Williams was also enamored with Tjeerdsma's 11-2 head-to-head record against previous Bearkats head coach Willie Fritz. Tjeerdsma holds a 242-82-4 career mark as a head coach, and went 183-43 as Northwest Missouri State's head coach from 1994-2010.
Keeler's move is a major one in the FCS ranks. Keeler led the Blue Hens to an 86-52 record from 2002-12 with four FCS playoffs appearances, three national championship appearances and a national title in 2003. Keeler took the Blue Hens to Frisco for the FCS title game as recently as 2010, where Delaware built a 19-0 lead midway through the third quarter before falling 20-19 to Eastern Washington, but was let go following the 2012 season after slumping to an eighth-place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association standings. Keeler spent the 2013 season as a color analyst for ESPN3.
In moving to Huntsville, Keeler takes over perhaps the most successful FCS program south of Fargo, N.D., over the past three seasons. Under Fritz, Sam Houston State is 34-10 over the past three seasons with two appearances in the FCS National Championship and seven total playoff wins.
As proven Keeler is as a head coach, the unknown aspect of this hire is whether Keeler, a lifetime East Coast resident, will be able to translate his success to East Texas and the Southland Conference. A native of Emmaus, Pa., Keeler played linebacker at Delaware before working as an assistant at Amherst (D-III - MA) and Rowan (D-III - NJ) before ascending to head coaching positions at Rowan and Delaware. Keeler holds a 174-73-1 career record with 11 playoff appearances in 20 seasons as a head coach.
The move completes the 2013-14 hiring cycle for FCS head coaches. In an usually active year, Sam Houston State becomes the 26th of 26 schools to fill its head coaching vacancy.