Keeler isn't the FCS' only FBS candidate

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The ink seemingly wasn't dry on a contract that would send Greg Schiano from Rutgers to the head coaching job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and already there was potential fallout:

Delaware coach K.C. Keeler's name came up as a potential successor to Schiano at Rutgers.

Not surprisingly, either.

Keeler's hiring at Rutgers would be one of those rise-through-the-ranks-and- take-the-next-step stories.

It was just over a year ago that Keeler was considered to be a candidate at another Big East program, Connecticut.

Keeler, 52, has the track record to be in the conversation, having taken Division III Rowan and Delaware of the FCS to a combined eight national championship games in 19 seasons as a head coach.

He has the East Coast connections, and New Jersey ties, which would be attractive to Rutgers' decision-makers. He also thinks outside the box and has a terrific understanding of what goes into building and developing a program.

As a head coach, K.C. Keeler has led his teams to a combined eight national championship games in 19 seasons.
The glaring negative, of course, is Keeler has never coached on the FBS level, even as an assistant.

While Keeler seemingly has the ability to make the jump successfully, a leap to Rutgers, even with the Big East having slipped in the last decade, would have him skipping the lower tier of the FBS to a job which would pay well over $1 million annually, although surely less than Schiano's salary there.

Keeler is one of a small handful of FCS head coaches who have never been a FBS head coach to appear ready to lead a program on that level - the kind the FBS school would pursue as much as the coach will go after it.

FCS head coaches like Appalachian State's Jerry Moore or Villanova's Andy Talley would land in the FBS anyway if their schools move there.

Other highly regarded FCS head coaches don't factor here because they have past experience as FBS head coaches, such as Georgia State's Bill Curry, Harvard's Tim Murphy and Jacksonville State's Jack Crowe.

Still others who haven't been FBS head coaches seem more like perfect fits for their current schools, or whose age might be a concern to schools on the higher level, are Montana State's Rob Ash, 60; James Madison's Mickey Matthews, 58; and New Hampshire's Sean McDonnell, 55.

While Keeler seems ready to make that jump to the FBS level, here are five other coaches who have the resume to become a FBS head coach for the first time:

Beau Baldwin - The 39-year-old might have to become an offensive coordinator first on the FBS level, but he's a young coach on the rise, having already won a FCS championship at Eastern Washington. He's flip-flopped enough at EWU and Division II Central Washington that he fits best for a FBS program in the Pacific Northwest.

Craig Bohl - One has to believe this incredibly serious, driven coach, at 53, would be interested in one more big challenge now that he's taken North Dakota State to the FCS level and then the national title. He was defensive coordinator at Nebraska and has plenty of other FBS experience as an assistant.

Willie Fritz - The Sam Houston State mentor was said to be a candidate for Tulane when that job was vacant this offseason. At 51, he's been coaching for nearly 30 seasons, but may not have enough Division I experience without becoming a defensive coordinator first. Still it's hard to ignore the Bearkats' 14-1 run in his second season.

Jeff Monken - It would take the right school at the right time - perhaps a program that is overmatched and willing to run an option to lessen its gap - but the 44-year-old has highly sought-after values and the recommendation of Paul Johnson, whom he assisted at Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech.

Bobby Wilder - Don't be fooled by the 10-year contract that Old Dominion gave its 47-year-old coach in December. The long-time Maine assistant has shown an uncanny ability to build a program from scratch, seemingly overnight. ODU is 27-8 through three seasons and already a success in competitive CAA Football.

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