After the rumor was broken by Keith Groller on his blog at the Morning Call, the official announcement was made at the football banquet this weekend along with an official release from Lehigh: former Leigh player and assisant coach Dave Cecchini is indeed returning to Lehigh.
Cech is not the only former Lehigh assistant coach to be heading to a new position this month - but his return after being dismissed at the Citadel is clearly the dominant story. (more)
With my original post on the rumored hire, the official release and an additional story on the hiring from Keith Groller at the Morning Call, there's plenty to chew on:
“It’s a special feeling to be back at Lehigh,” Cecchini said. “Anytime you have a chance to come back to your alma mater and a place you love is special. I’m excited to be back and can’t wait to get to work.”
“First and foremost the reason I returned here is Andy Coen. Andy is a very good friend and a great coach and I’m looking forward to working with him. I hope to bring the knowledge that I’ve gained from my time at The Citadel and Harvard and bring a part of what I’ve learned to help augment the offense here at Lehigh.”
“I am very pleased to announce the addition of Dave Cecchini as our Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach,” Coen said. “I like the fact that Dave is familiar with Lehigh. Being an alum he has a strong passion for the University and with him coming back to join our staff we now have three former Lehigh football players on staff along with (Special Teams/Running Backs Coach) R.J. Ryan ’99 and recently added (Assistant Defensive Backs Coach) Ernest Moore ’08.”
“I know our players will enjoy working closely with Coach Cecchini,” Coen added. “He was an integral part of the football program’s success at Lehigh University when he was previously here and he has proven himself to be an outstanding Quarterbacks Coach after developing Ryan Fitzpatrick into an NFL-caliber quarterback at Harvard University.”
He won the Mike Campbell Top Assistant Coach award from AAFCA in 2005 after Harvard had the Ivy League's top offense.
''There's no question that I have benefitted from the experiences I've had over the last seven years and I'm a better coach now than I was when I left here,'' Cecchini said. ''At The Citadel, you play high-caliber competition in the Southern Conference, which are all scholarship schools, and then each year we'd play a program like Florida, Clemson, Texas A&M or Wisconsin and you'd have the challenge of going against one of the best defenses in the country. So, those challenges definitely have made me better.''
But Cecchini said he left on good terms with Higgins and would have stayed in Charleston, S.C., if the opportunity didn't arise at Lehigh.
''Andy [Coen] and I good friends and we talk all the time during the season,'' Cecchini said. ''This whole thing kind of evolved over time. It was a gradual process. Everything just fell into place and it was the right time for me and the right time for Lehigh.''
Cecchini interviewed for the Lehigh's top job in late 2005 after the sudden departure of Pete Lembo to Elon and was considered the runner-up to Coen at that time.
He was disappointed, but not bitter.
''That was a unique situation,'' Cecchini said. ''Here we were, good friends going after the same job. I told Joe Sterrett [Lehigh's athletic director] in my interview that I thought Andy would be a great choice to be the head coach and thought he would do a tremendous job. Experience-wise, he was much further down the road than I was.
''It left me with mixed emotions. I was tremendously excited for Andy and there was also a bit of a letdown for me not to get it, but it wasn't that bad because I wasn't out of work. I had an opportunity to be with Kevin at The Citadel and I really enjoyed that whole experience.''
Being a former player and coaching here during what some would regard as the golden era of Lehigh football, Cecchini knows expectations are high.
''Expectations are high here and they should be high,'' he said. ''That's the nature of this business. You know what's going on when you get into it. It's not a high school or Division III program.
''But I can tell you that I watched a lot of film already from last season and they truly were a couple of plays away from being a Patriot League champion. The talent exists here. We're positioned to make a good run at it in this coming season and I'm ready to get get to work to help make that happen.''
"We really enjoyed working together when we were here (in the 90s)," coach Coen told me today. "We're good friends, and we had a lot of success here. He's done a lot of great things since he's left Lehigh, and we're certainly excited to have him back here."