Delaware hires Richmond’s Rocco as football coach

Danny Rocco

NEWARK –Delaware hasn’t registered too many big football victories lately.

But the Blue Hens posted a pretty significant off-the-field win on Tuesday when they hired coach Danny Rocco away from CAA-rival Richmond.

The 56-year-old Rocco will be introduced as Delaware’s new coach today at 1 p.m. at the Carpenter Center.

While Rocco was believed to be the Hens’ top choice all along, he met with officials from both Richmond and Delaware on Monday.

The news of his decision to join the Hens came out of Richmond on Tuesday morning.

According to a story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Rocco was “close” to staying with the Spiders, who he’s coached for the past five seasons.

Finally, however, he decided that “I do think it’s time for me to move on.” In the Times-Dispatch story, Rocco said getting back near his Pennsylvania roots was a big factor.

A former Penn State linebacker and a native of Huntingdon, Pa., Rocco still has several relatives in the state.

“I am closer to home. I am back into the region that I really started my coaching and recruiting career, in the state of Pennsylvania,” Rocco told the paper. “That’s where all of my ties are. My dad was the president of the Pennsylvania High School Coaches Association back in 1982.

“I’ll be a little closer to home and be at a school I think is a little better fit for me moving forward. To me, this is the only (FCS) league to be in, for me geographically, the only league I’d want to be in. I learned that quickly after arriving at Richmond.”

Like Delaware, Richmond is a member of the Colonial Athletic Association but the Spiders are a league member in football only.

“Could not be happier to welcome Coach Danny Rocco and his family to Delaware!” UD athletic Chrissi Rawak tweeted on Tuesday.

Former Blue Hen star quarterback Rich Gannon, who was a member of the search committee, also tweeted the news on Tuesday morning: “Excited for Delaware football and our new HC Danny Rocco! Good things are in store for my Blue Hens! Welcome aboard coach!”

“Congratulations to Coach Rocco! I almost committed to Liberty University because of him, he will do great things for UD Football!” tweeted former Blue Hen punter Eric Enderson.

In 11 seasons as a head coach, at both Liberty and Richmond, Rocco has never had a losing season. He owns an overall record of 90-42 and has been a finalist for national FCS Coach of the Year five times.

At Richmond, Rocco’s teams went a combined 43-22 with a 26-14 record in the CAA. He took the Spiders to three straight NCAA Division I FCS playoff appearances, including a trip to the national semifinals in 2015.

In both 2012 and ‘15, Richmond tied for the Colonial title.

“Rocco is not flashy,” Times-Dispatch reporter Paul Woody wrote in a column on Tuesday afternoon. “But he is a fundamentally sound coach who adjusts his coaching style to the available talent and knows how to win.”

This past fall, the Spiders went 10-4 and advanced to the FCS quarterfinals, where they fell to Eastern Washington, 38-0, on Saturday. Rocco indicated to the Times-Dispatch that he also had some interest from Division I FBS Temple, although he wasn’t offered the Owls’ head coaching job.

Before Richmond, Rocco spent six seasons at Liberty, where his teams were 47-20, including a 26-5 mark in the Big South.

Rocco, who finished his playing career at Wake Forest, was a defensive line or linebackers coach for several well-known head coaches, including Al Groh (Wake Forest, New York Jets), Bill McCartney (Colorado) and Tom Coughlin (Boston College).

In Newark, Rocco takes over a Delaware program that has gone 4-7 each of the last past two seasons — its first back-to-back losing campaigns since 1939. On the other hand, the Hens are losing only a handful of starters to graduation.

Rocco said he plans to bring most of his Richmond assistant coaches with him.

The Hens have had only five football head coaches since Bill Murray was hired in 1940. Murray, Dave Nelson and Tubby Raymond all had Hall of Fame careers.

Delaware has been without a full-time head coach since Oct. 16 when it fired fourth-year coach Dave Brock.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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