Cheney Free Press -

 
 

By PAUL DELANEY
Staff Reporter 

K.C. Keeler gets new start at Sam Houston State

Former Delaware head coach makes Bearkats' debut in game against Eastern Aug. 23 at Roos

 

SHSU

When we last saw K.C. Keeler he was on the sidelines for the Delaware Blue Hens at the 2010 FCS championship game in Frisco, Texas where Eastern Washington rallied from a 19-0 third-quarter deficit to win the game 20-19. Keeler is the new head coach at Sam Houston State University who visits Cheney Aug. 23 to kick off the college football season versus EWU on national television with ESPN.

The joke floated around following the 2010 Football Championship Subdivision championship, won by Eastern Washington University 20-19 over Delaware, Jan. 7, 2011 in Frisco, Texas that Blue Hens' head coach K.C. Keeler was the"Best First Half Coach of the Year."

Keeler had guided the Blue Hens to a 19-0 lead they kept until late in the third quarter when the Eagles rallied to score the game's next 20 straight points.

Keeler's shot at redemption starts here - in Cheney on Aug. 23 - when he leads his new team, the Sam Houston State University Bearkats, into Cheney for the 2014 season opening football game, once again on that ESPN stage for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff.

When SHSU head coach Willie Fritz's 40-14 record and two appearances in the national title game, earned him a promotion to the FBS job at Georgia Southern following the 2013 season, Keeler seemed to be in the right place at the right time.

Surprisingly fired after a stellar career at Delaware, Keeler landed at one of the top FCS programs in the country. He will look to keep Sam Houston's current 3-0 record intact versus Eastern.

But instead of trying to accomplish that in the cold of December where the Bearkats had beaten the Eagles twice in Cheney in the FCS playoffs, or the soupy humidity of the Southeast where they won last September, they'll face the dry heat of the Pacific Northwest.

Keeler was just two years into his time at Delaware when his Blue Hens went 15-1 and defeated Colgate soundly, 40-0, for the FCS title in 2003. Talk about setting the bar high?

But as is so often the case, for Keeler it proved to be what have you done for us lately?

Keeler's teams reached the FCS championship game in 2007 – and of course 2010 – but was fired in 2012 after going 5-6.

He remained away from the sidelines for a while, but a barometer of sorts seemed to indicate it was time for him to return to the game he'd been connected with his entire life.

According to a story on SHSU's website, sometime around the end of September last year, Keeler's wife, Janice, told him it was time to get back into coaching.

They missed the relationships with the players, coaching staffs and communities.

"I knew a little bit about Sam Houston before visiting for the interview," Keeler said. "But after doing some research about the University, I was amazed to find that Sam Houston is a hidden gem."

The recently turned 55-year-old Keeler played high school ball in his hometown of Emmaus, Pennsylvania and moved on to Delaware where he played linebacker from 1978-80.

In 1980, Keeler - the K.C. comes from his given name, Kurt Charles - signed a free agent contract with the NFL Philadelphia Eagles. He was one of the last players released during the 1980 pre-season. His coach at the time was Dick Vermeil who made the cut but called Keeler the day he was hired in Huntsville to tell him he would be "living the dream."

Keeler brings an overall record of 174-73 and one tie as a head coach to SHSU. In his 11 seasons at Delaware the Blue Hens rolled up an 86-52 record.

Before that he coached at NCAA Division III Rowan where he was 88-21 in nine years with five trips - all losses - to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.

Janice Keeler, who sensed her husband needed to get back to the game he loved and lived, had a three-item checklist for where her husband could coach. There had to be warm weather, championship potential and good people running the administration.

According to the report, Janice Keeler got two of her three items checked off the list. The weather, which was very "Delawarish," the day her husband was introduced as the Bearkats' 15th head coach, would have to wait she said.

The Keeler family plans on being around long enough to get a more accurate impression of the Texas climate and history would point that out. "I'm here for the long haul," Keeler said. "This is a great job. I've been two places in 28 years."

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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