|Team||Sam Houston State|
|Born||July 26, 1959|
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|Head coaching record|
|Tournaments||21–7 (NCAA D-III playoffs)|
24–7 (NCAA D-I-AA/FCS playoffs)
|Accomplishments and honors|
|2 NCAA Division I FCS (2003, 2020)|
4 NJAC (1993, 1995, 1997, 2001)
2 A-10 (2003–2004)
1 CAA (2010)
3 Southland (2014, 2016, 2020)
|Eddie Robinson Award (2016)|
AFCA Coach of the Year Award (2010)
Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award (2010)
All-American Football Foundation Frank Leahy Coach of the Year (2003)
All-American Football Foundation Johnny Vaught Head Coach Award (2007)
Field Turf FCS Coach of the Year (2010)
Maxwell Club Coach of the Year (2003, 2007, 2010)
Kurt Charles "K. C." Keeler (born July 26, 1959) is an American football coach and former player. He is currently the head coach at Sam Houston State University. He was the head football coach at the University of Delaware from 2002 to 2012. Keeler served as the head football coach at Rowan University from 1993 to 2001. His 2003 Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens squad won the NCAA Division I-AA Football Championship, and returned to the Division I Championship game in 2007, 2010 and returned in 2020 as Sam Houston State University’s head football coach. Keeler won the 2020 FCS National Championship game making him the only coach in FCS history to win a national championship at two different institutions. The win also pushed Keeler past Youngstown State Coach Jim Tressel to become the all-time winningest coach in FCS Playoff history. Keeler is currently the 37th winningest coach in the history of college football. In Keeler's 27 years as a head football coach he has won 243 games. He has taken 16 teams to the NCAA playoffs with 14 of his teams reaching the Final Four and 9 of his teams reaching the National Championship game. He is the only coach in college football history to take 3 different programs to the final four as well as 3 different programs to the National Championship. Keeler is 16-0 all time in first round playoff games as well as 30-0 all time in home playoff games. K.C. is one of only four FCS Head Coaches to win all three of the National Coach of the Year awards. In 2010 he won both the AFCA and Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year and in 2016 he was awarded the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year.
In 2019, an ESPN Blue Ribbon Panel selected Keeler as one of the 150 greatest coaches in college football history.
High school and college
Keeler played high school football at Emmaus High School in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. He was chosen to play in the 1977 Pennsylvania Big 33 All-Star game. He went on to play collegiate football at the University of Delaware, where he was a linebacker from 1978 to 1980 under coach Tubby Raymond. He was a member of the 1979 Division II National Championship squad. Once had 3 consecutive interceptions on 3 consecutive plays at University of Delaware.
NFL and USFL
In 1982, Keeler signed a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League. Keeler was resigned by the Eagles in 1983 after being a late cut by the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL. He was one of the last players cut by the Eagles in both 1982 and 1983. Keeler was also a member of the 1984 Jacksonville Bulls of the United States Football League during their training camp.
Amherst and Rowan
Keeler began his coaching career as an assistant at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1981 and then at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey in 1986. He became Rowan head coach in the 1993 season, ending his tenure in 2001 with an 88–21–1 (.804) record and seven NCAA Division III playoff appearances. He was, however, 0–5 in NCAA Division III Football Championship Stagg Bowls at Rowan, losing by an average of 42.4 to 18.4.
After Raymond retired in 2002, Keeler was named the fourth Delaware head football coach in 62 years. He immediately brought a new offensive philosophy to the team, replacing its famed and historic Winged-T formation with a no-huddle, spread offense. Under Keeler, Delaware won its first national championship since 1979 and its first-ever Division I-AA title (in 2003) with a 15–1 record and a 149–23 total score in the four-game playoff series.
Keeler became as much of a celebrity in Delaware as Raymond. He was named "Delawarean of the Year" in 2004 by Delaware Today magazine and was listed as one of the top college football recruiters in the nation by American Football Monthly magazine. The (Wilmington) News Journal reported that Keeler was forced to hire an agent after the 2003 championship to help manage speaking engagements, guest appearances and private functions. His trademark sunglasses (which he also wore during night games) and wireless headgear were emulated with K.C. Keeler bobbleheads sold at games and local Newark, Delaware businesses.
Keeler often attacked criticism that I-AA/FCS programs are of lesser caliber than I-A. "We're the LSU; we're the Georgia, the Florida of Division I-AA," Keeler said in a 2004 interview with American Football Monthly. "We have every resource. There's some people who have better resources than we do, but in general, the college campus we have is in one of the greatest college towns in America, and the academics ... we led the nation last year in out-of-state applications, more than Michigan or Texas. But that's what this school has become. Everybody wants to come to school here."
On June 19, 2008, Keeler was granted a 10-year contract extension to keep him on as head coach of the Blue Hens through the 2017 season. However, following the 2012 season, in which his team posted a 5−6 record, Keeler was fired.
On January 23, 2014, Keeler was named the 15th head coach in Sam Houston State program history.
In 2014, Sam Houston State went 11-5, as Keeler helped the Bearkats return to the FCS Playoffs, where they won 3 games which included a win over Keeler’s old CAA rival Villanova. Sam Houston State would eventually be eliminated in the semifinals. Looking to build upon a successful first year in Huntsville, the Bearkats went 8-3 in 2015 and once again advanced to the semifinals.
In 2016, Keeler led Sam Houston State to their first undefeated regular season since 2011. Led by Walter Payton Award winner Jeremiah Briscoe, Sam Houston State won the Southland and made an FCS Playoffs run before being blown out by the James Madison Dukes in the quarterfinals. Keeler was named Coach of the Year.
In 2017, Keeler led Sam Houston State to the playoffs for the fourth straight year, once again advancing to the semifinals. This was his third appearance in the semifinals at the school, although he was once again stopped before the title game, losing to the North Dakota State Bison.
Keeler led the 2020 Bearkats—who played all of their games in 2021, due to COVID-19—to a 10–0 season culminating with a 23–21 win over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the 2021 NCAA Division I Football Championship Game. It was the first NCAA football championship in program history; the Bearkats had shared the 1964 NAIA football championship with Concordia College of Moorhead, Minnesota.
As of 2021, K.C. Keeler has 3 Southland Conference Championships, 13 FCS Playoff wins and a National Title through 7 seasons at Sam Houston State University. As a Bearkat, Keeler has become both the all time FCS Playoffs wins leader and the only coach to win an FCS Title with two different schools.
In 2013 Keeler was out of coaching. During this time, he worked as a Content Producer for NFL Films The Match Up Show featuring Ron Jaworski, Merril Hoge, and Sal Paolantonio, produced by Greg Cosell. Keeler also worked as a College Football Color Commentator for ESPN that year.
Head coaching record
- List of college football coaches with 200 wins
- List of college football coaches with 150 NCAA Division I FCS wins
- "The 150 greatest coaches in college football's 150-year history". ESPN. December 10, 2019.
- "Settling it on the field". Sports Illustrated. December 19, 2003. Retrieved July 8, 2012.
- "Head Coach K. C. Keeler". University of Delaware. June 15, 2010. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved August 20, 2011.
- Purdum, David (September 2004). "His Own Man". American Football Monthly. Retrieved August 20, 2011.
- Tresolini, Kevin (January 7, 2013). "UD fires football coach K.C. Keeler". The News Journal. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
- Roepken, Corey (January 23, 2014). "Sam Houston State hires K.C. Keeler as head football coach". Houston Chronicle.
- Carlton, Chuck (May 16, 2021). "Sam Houston State seals first FCS national title in program history with another late comeback victory". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved May 17, 2021.