NEWARK — It really was just a normal Sunday afternoon for Delaware’s football players.
They’d already met with coach Dave Brock at the Carpenter Center and were starting to look to next week’s game.
Then, in the next instant, everything changed for the Blue Hens.
Delaware athletic director Christine Rawak called a team meeting to announce that Brock had been fired.
“It was a little bit of shock, disbelief at first,” said senior running back Jalen Randolph. “A little bit of confusion.
“I think they handled it as well as you can. Obviously it was a decision that she wasn’t happy with — something that she didn’t want to do.”
Brock then got up and talked to his players briefly for one last time.
“There was still a little disbelief going around the room,” said Randolph. “But he told us he loved us — his normal message. Stuff like this isn’t going to break him. He’s a great guy.
“He told us he’s going to be our biggest fan and supporter for the rest of the way.”
And with that, Delaware closed the book on the Dave Brock era.
He was fired midway through his fourth season on Sunday, with the Hens (0-3 CAA, 2-4 overall) mired in a four-game losing streak after going just 4-7 last fall. Brock finishes with a record of 19-22.
Delaware’s 7-5 campaign in 2013 was his lone winning season.
By Monday, the Hens were already moving ahead. Co-defensive coordinator Dennis Dottin-Carter, an assistant on Brock’s staff the last three seasons, will be the interim head coach for the rest of the fall, starting with Saturday’s 1 p.m. home game against Stony Brook (3-0, CAA, 4-2).
For a program that had just three head football coaches from 1940-2010, Dottin-Carter will technically be the Hens’ third head coach since 2012.
With Delaware’s season heading downhill, Rawak thought it was time to start going in a different direction. The Hens have won only six of their last 19 games since the end of the 2014 season.
In Brock’s last game, Delaware couldn’t hold a 14-3 lead in falling at William & Mary, 24-17, on Saturday.
“I’ve been listening, learning from day one, and really evaluating it,” said Rawak, who has been Delaware’s AD since May. “I woke up Sunday morning and I felt like it was the right decision to make.
“I think timing was never easy,” she said. “And I think what was clear to me was that a change was needed. I didn’t feel like it was in the best interest of the program — or honestly fair to Coach — to wait much longer.”
The 34-year-old Dottin-Carter has the tough job of trying to get the Hens turned around to play one of the Colonial Athletic Association’s best teams in Stony Brook.
Rawak said it was the former Maine player’s enthusiasm for coaching that made her choose him to be the interim head coach.
“I felt what Dennis brings to the table is his players’ respect,” said Rawak. “This team respects him. He’s a leader. I watch how he interacts with his players.
“We need somebody that has those relationships. They trust in him and believe in him and they’re going to work hard for him.”
Midway through the season, there’s obviously not too many big changes that Dottin-Carter and his staff can make right now.
He said his main goal is keeping the players together and working toward the same goals.
“It’s not different from what Coach Brock preached,” said Dottin-Carter. “It’s something that I truly believe in. We’re only going to get this done together.
“Right now, the team is, so-to-speak, fractured because the person who was leading our team, our family, is not with us anymore. But we certainly have a goal to accomplish on a weekly basis. Every guy in this program came here for a reason and most of those reasons are still in front of us.”
Rawak said breaking the news to the players on Sunday was rough. She knows the Hens felt a great deal of loyalty toward Brock, who recruited most of them to Newark.
“I impacted 99 young men last night,” said Rawak. “And standing up in front of them was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do. I know they care about him.”
Several players reacted to the news on social media.
“Sad day here,” wrote Indian River High grad Jamie Jarmon, a sophomore receiver. “I’m forever grateful for everything you’ve taught me in so little time, relationship of a lifetime!@HensCoachBrock.”
“Coach Brock was like a father to me if not more,” tweeted junior running back Kareem Williams. “he’s been there through everything when no one even knew about #NeverOutOfMyHeartOrLife.”
Randolph called Sunday a “strange day.”
As a fifth-year senior, he was actually at Delaware when previous coach K.C. Keeler was fired and Brock was brought in. While that gave him some perspective, Randolph said that didn’t make the situation any easier.
Randolph said the Hens know they haven’t played to the best of their abilities. But they also understand that college football is a business.
“There’s a lot of guys that are upset and a lot of guys that a little confused,” he said. “But, I mean, that’s understandable. Coach Brock played a large role in a lot of those guys coming here.
“I think the guys know that we still have our goals in front of us. They know that we still need to draw on each other and pull together and stay behind Coach ‘Dot.’ … I’m 150 percent confident in Coach Dot. I just want to do my best to convey that message to the team. We still have a leader that we can count on.”
Reach sports editor Andy Walter at email@example.com