After inheriting a Richmond Spiders football team that went 3-8 overall and 0-8 in CAA play in 2011, head coach Danny Rocco arrived in 2012 and immediately made good on the promise he made the day he was hired - return the Spider program back to its winning ways.
In 2012, Rocco led Richmond to a share of the CAA Football championship, posting an overall record of 8-3 and a conference mark of 6-2. The five-win turnaround is the second-best in the history of Richmond football, while the six-conference win improvement was the best in the CAA. The Spiders had numerous quality wins in 2012, defeating Villanova in Philadelphia, while also taking down then No. 2-ranked James Madison. Richmond also defeated perennial CAA power Delaware at Robins Stadium.
For his efforts, Rocco was named a finalist not only for the Eddie Robinson Award, but also the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award. Both distinctions marked the fourth time that Rocco had been named a finalist for the two honors in his seven years as a head coach. Rocco was also named The Touchdown Club of Richmond's NCAA Division I Commonwealth of Virginia Coach of the Year.
Continuing the trend he set during his tenure at Liberty, the Spiders led the nation in turnover margin in 2012 (+22), while also leading the country in interceptions with 24. On the other side of the ball, Richmond's offensive line proved to be one of the finest in all of the FCS, leading the CAA and ranking in a tie for third nationally with just five sacks allowed all season.
In 2013, the Spiders entered the year ranked No. 14 in the country, rising to No. 12 after a season-opening win against VMI. At NC State, Richmond opened up a 21-10 lead in the second half against the Wolfpack, but a last-second field goal would propel NCSU past the Spiders.
Close losses and injuries cost Richmond early in the season, but the team responded under Rocco to win its final four games of the season in impressive fashion. After wins over CAA newcomers Albany and Stony Brook, the Spiders recorded an impressive, 46-43 win at No. 21 Delaware. Then in the final game of the season, Rocco led the team to its second-straight Capital Cup victory, 31-20, over No. 19-ranked William & Mary.
In two seasons under Rocco, Richmond players have earned 22 All-CAA honors, nine All-America accolades and one NFL Draft selection.
Prior to coming to Richmond, Rocco had one of the most successful coaching stints in the history of Liberty University. Rocco arrived at Liberty following the program's 1-10 finish in 2005 and transformed the program as the architect of six consecutive winning seasons with the Flames. During his first season in 2006, Liberty won five more games (6-5) than the previous year, an improvement that tied for the best FCS turnaround in the nation that season.
As a result of his immediate impact on the program, Rocco was named Big South Coach of the Year for the first time in school history in 2006, the first of three-straight years he would receive the honor. He would go on to be named a finalist for the national Eddie Robinson Award and Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award in each of the final three seasons in Lynchburg.
Since the team's stunning turnaround in 2006, Rocco's teams continued to dominate in the Big South Conference and beyond. The Flames rolled to a 47-20 overall record and an impressive 26-5 mark in Big South play under Rocco, winning no fewer than seven games in each of his final five seasons. Nationally, Liberty finished the last four years ranked inside the Top 25 in both major FCS polls.
During Rocco's six years at the helm in Lynchburg, the Flames captured their first-ever Big South Championship in 2007 - the first of three consecutive conference titles. During this four-year span, Rocco had the third-highest winning percentage among FCS coaches nationally with his 34-11 record (.756).
Liberty was able to achieve and sustain such success under Rocco by winning on both sides of the ball. From 2007-10, the Flames ranked first in the nation among FCS programs with 37.28 scoring average per game while ranking seventh by allowing just 19.17 points per game. The Flames were also the top-ranked team in FCS Football in turnover margin over the course of Rocco's first five seasons at Liberty.
Rocco's players undoubtedly exceled under his guidance at Liberty. He coached 97 Big South all-conference honorees and 19 players who garnered All-America honors, including a pair of consensus All-Americans in running back Rashad Jennings (2008) and kicker Matt Begins (2009, 2010).
Four of Rocco's student-athletes at Liberty, Vince Redd (New England), Stephen Sene (St. Louis), Trey Jacobs (Washington) and Rashad Jennings (Jacksonville) went on to play in the professional ranks in the National Football League. Jennings became Liberty's first NFL Draft selection in two decades when he was chosen in the seventh round by the Jaguars in 2009.
Prior to his arrival at Liberty, Rocco spent the previous five seasons at Virginia, beginning in 2001. Here, he helped guide the Cavaliers to four-consecutive bowl appearances, including back-to-back Continental Tire Bowl victories in 2002 and 2003, and 37 overall wins alongside Al Groh as an assistant head coach and linebacker coach.
Rocco would also serve as the Cavaliers' recruiting coordinator his first year in Charlottesville. His 2002 recruiting class was ranked in the top 10 in the nation by many of the major recruiting services, including a fifth-place ranking by ESPN. Rocco would quickly be promoted to associate head coach while continuing to serve as linebackers coach.
He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at his alma mater, Wake Forest. He spent the 1984 and 1985 seasons with the Demon Deacons before being hired as the defensive line coach before the 1986 season.
Rocco was then hired by Colorado head coach Bill McCartney as an assistant linebackers coach for the 1987 season before heading to Tulsa to serve as the outside linebackers coach from 1998-2000.
He returned to the East Coast for the 1991-93 season to work for current New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin as his defensive line coach at Boston College, helping Coughlin revitalize the Golden Eagle's return to the national stage as participants in the 1992 Hall of Fame Bowl and the 1993 Carquest Bowl.
Following his successful stint at Boston College, Rocco then served as the outside linebackers coach at the University of Texas at Austin, where the Longhorns captured three straight conference titles, including winning the inaugural Big 12 Championship in 1996 and earning bids to three consecutive bowl games (Sun Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl).
His career would then continue at Maryland, where he served as the linebackers coach during the 1998 and 1999 seasons before reuniting with his mentor, Groh, as an assistant linebacker and special teams coach with the New York Jets for the team's 2000 campaign. He would then follow Groh to Virginia for the 2001-2005 seasons.
Rocco began his college playing career at Penn State, where he earned two varsity letters and competed in the 1979 Liberty Bowl and the 1980 Fiesta Bowl before transferring to Wake Forest. While in Winston-Salem, he was a two-year starter and senior captain for Groh.
He was no stranger to coaching after growing up in a football family. His father, Frank Rocco, Sr., served as an assistant coach at Penn State under Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno before joining the Liberty staff for a six-year stint in 2000. Frank Rocco, Jr., also joined the Flames staff in 2000 as a wide receivers and quarterbacks coach and received a promotion to offensive coordinator prior to his departure in 2003. Both he and brother, Dave, both currently coach at the high school level in Virginia.
A native of Huntingdon, Pa., Rocco is married to the former Julie Mills. They are the parents of two children, David and Amy.