Huntsville, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Sam Houston State football stood one victory shy of winning the FCS championship following the 2011 and '12 seasons.
The Bearkats are hoping K.C. Keeler, who won the 2003 national title at the University of Delaware, can help them get over the final step.
Sam Houston State named Keeler as its 15th head football coach on Thursday. A news conference on campus has been scheduled for Friday.
The 54-year-old brings a 174-73-1 career record to the Southland Conference power, succeeding Willie Fritz, who departed the Bearkats earlier this month to become Georgia Southern's head coach.
"This is a tremendously exciting opportunity for me and my family," Keeler said. "We're coming to an institution that not only has enjoyed outstanding football success recently, but also is growing as an academic institution."
Keeler emerged from five finalists for the Sam Houston State position. FootballScoop.com, a coaching website, had reported Tuesday night that former Northwest Missouri State coach Mel Tjeerdsma would become the next Bearkats' head coach.
While Tjeerdsma won three Division II national titles and appeared in four other championship games at Northwest Missouri State, it's hard to argue with Keeler's success. Besides leading Delaware, his alma mater, to the FCS national championship in 2003, the Blue Hens reached the title game under him in 2007 and 2010. In addition, he led Rowan University to five appearances in the Division III national championship game.
Keeler was 86-52, with four playoff appearances, in 11 seasons at Delaware from 2002-12. He coached five NFL draft picks at Delaware, including Super Bowl XLVII MVP quarterback Joe Flacco.
At Rowan, Keeler went 88-21-1, with seven playoff appearances, in nine seasons from 1993-2001.
"One of the things that jumps out at you first is Coach Keeler's record at the FCS level. Not only has he won a national championship, but he has returned to the championship game two other times," Sam Houston athletic director Bobby Williams said. "He has a track record of building a program and then continuing that success."
Sam Houston will lose a number of key players off a squad that posted a 9-5 record and made its third straight appearance in the FCS playoffs last season.