LEWISBURG — Dave Cecchini, one of the all-time great wide receivers in Patriot League history who has since gone on to achieve tremendous success in the coaching ranks, has been named the 27th Bob Odell Head Football Coach at Bucknell University, director of athletics and recreation Jermaine Truax announced Wednesday.
Most recently the head coach at Valparaiso University, Cecchini has a long track record of building explosive offenses at elite academic institutions. Previously the offensive coordinator at Lehigh University, The Citadel and Harvard University, his offenses have shattered school records at his every stop, propelling his teams to a combined seven conference championships. An All-American wide receiver at Lehigh during his playing days in the early 1990s, Cecchini spent 13 of his 24 seasons as a coach at his alma mater.
“I am thrilled to introduce Dave Cecchini as Bucknell’s 27th head football coach,” said Truax. “Dave has had tremendous success throughout his career as a student-athlete, a coordinator and a head coach. He has earned a reputation as one of the brightest offensive minds in the nation, and has made substantial improvement to the Valparaiso football program as head coach. Having played and coached in the Patriot League for many years, Dave is a great fit for Bucknell and the student-athletes in our football program. He understands how to attract the best and brightest student-athletes, who will excel in the classroom and on the field while being great representatives of Bucknell and our community.”
“I am beyond excited to become the next head football coach at Bucknell University,” said Cecchini. “I would like to thank President John Bravman and director of athletics and recreation Jermaine Truax for this amazing opportunity. Bucknell is an exceptional institution with an outstanding tradition of successfully blending a world-class education with competitive Division 1 athletics programs. I am looking forward to meeting the team and working towards building a Patriot League championship-caliber program together.”
In 2014, Cecchini took over Valparaiso’s football program that had won just three games, all against the same opponent, in the four seasons before his arrival. The 2017 campaign saw Valparaiso reach new heights thanks to a potent offense that totaled 330 points and 4,398 yards, both good for second in school history. Picked to finish 10th of 11 teams in the Pioneer Football League, Valparaiso tied for third with a 5-3 record, its most league wins since 1961. Overall, Valparaiso finished above .500, at 6-5, for the first time since 2003.
For guiding Valparaiso’s[TNP1] turnaround, Cecchini was a finalist for the American Football Coaches Association’s FCS National Coach of the Year and the STATS FCS Coach of the Year awards; he was also voted as the Pioneer Football League Coach of the Year and the AFCA FCS Region 4 Coach of the Year.
Cecchini leaves Valparaiso as the program’s winningest coach through 50 games since 1986. Other highlights of his time at Valparaiso included defeating rival Butler in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2005, going 4-0 in conference games at Brown Field in 2017 and sending two student-athletes to the 2018 FCS National Bowl, which showcases the FCS’s top players.
Before becoming the 17th head football coach in Valparaiso history, Cecchini spent four seasons as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Lehigh. During his second stint on the Mountain Hawk staff, Cecchini built one of the most proficient and explosive offenses in the nation. In 2011, Lehigh ranked in the FCS’s top five in total offense (469.6) and passing offense (340.6) while averaging a Patriot League-best 32.5 points per game. Ten offensive players captured All-Patriot League laurels that season, headlined by Offensive Player of the Year Chris Lum. Lum, who was also the runner-up for the Walter Payton Award, broke the Patriot League’s single-season record for passing yards (4,378) and touchdown passes (32). For his role in Lehigh’s success, Cecchini was a finalist for the FootballScoop FCS Coordinator of the Year award.
With Cecchini guiding the offense, the Mountain Hawks went a combined 39-9 and won two Patriot League titles. Wide receiver Lee Kurfis led the nation in receiving yards per game (122.8) in 2013, after quarterback Mike Colvin finished fifth nationally in total offense (326.64) the year before. Under Cecchini’s watch, four Mountain Hawks garnered All-America honors.
From 2007 to 2009, Cecchini served as The Citadel’s offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach. During his first season in Charleston, the Bulldogs finished with their best record in 15 years, bolstered by an offense that set 16 school records, including points per game (39.5) and total offense (437.6). Cecchini mentored wide receiver Andre Roberts, a First Team All-American who set Citadel records in single-season receptions (95), receiving yards (1,334) and touchdown catches (15). Roberts, who was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the third round of the 2010 National Football League Draft, is currently a member of the New York Jets organization.
Beginning in 2003, Cecchini spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks and wide receivers coach at Harvard. His fast-paced offense paid immediate dividends, as the Crimson averaged 461 yards per game during his first campaign, a figure good for fourth nationally. The next season, Harvard went 10-0 and won the Ivy League championship. After the Crimson led the Ivy League in aggregate offense, the AFCA selected Cecchini as its 2005 Mike Campbell Top Assistant Coach Award winner.
Under Cecchini’s tutelage, 14 Harvard records fell, including points per game (33.9). Among his charges was quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, the 2004 Ivy League Player of the Year who was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the 2005 NFL Draft. Fitzpatrick, who is currently the quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has also spent time in five other NFL organizations.
Before his tenure in Cambridge, Cecchini spent nine seasons on his alma mater’s staff. In 2000, Cecchini’s first campaign as offensive coordinator, Lehigh went 11-0 during the regular season and reached the Division I-AA (now FCS) quarterfinals. Following that season, Cecchini was promoted to assistant head coach while retaining his responsibilities as offensive coordinator. In 2001, his up-tempo offense averaged 38.3 points per game, helping the Mountain Hawks secure their second-straight undefeated regular season and championship quarterfinal appearance. In Cecchini’s first three seasons directing the offense, Lehigh posted a combined 31-6 record and captured two Patriot League titles.
During his playing days at Lehigh, Cecchini became a consensus First Team All-American after leading the nation in receptions and receiving yards per game in 1993. That season, he set Patriot League records in receptions (88), receiving yards (1,318) and touchdown receptions (15); his 15 touchdown catches remain the Patriot League standard to this day. Cecchini, who was later named to the Patriot League 15th Anniversary Team, graduated from Lehigh in 1995 with a bachelor of science degree in marketing.
Cecchini first joined the Mountain Hawk football staff as a tight ends coach. He also served as a running backs coach, quarterbacks coach and wide receivers coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator. During Cecchini’s first stint in Bethlehem, Lehigh averaged more than 350 yards of offense and over 26 points per game.
Cecchini and his wife, Tammy, have two sons, Evan and Will.
Cecchini’s first game on the Bucknell sideline will come on Aug. 31 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, when the Bison take on Temple. It will be the first meeting between the long-ago rivals since 1970. The Bison and Owls met every season from 1927 to 1970, with the winner receiving “The Old Shoe” trophy.
What they are saying about Dave Cecchini
Former Harvard and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick:
“I really enjoyed Coach Cecchini not only as a coach but as a man. He helped me a lot in my college years. He helped me grow up, he taught me a lot about the game of football, and really taught me a lot about being a great husband and father. He had a lot of characteristics that I really looked up to, and I think he’s going to make a great head coach.”
Former Lehigh head football coach Andy Coen:
“I am very happy for Dave and his family to have this opportunity. Dave is an outstanding coach, but more importantly an outstanding person. I support him and wish him nothing but the best. I look forward to watching Dave build Bucknell into a winner.”
Wake Forest assistant head football coach Kevin Higgins:
“Bucknell made a great decision in hiring Dave Cecchini as its head coach. I have watched Dave grow from an All-America wide receiver to a very successful offensive coordinator, leading several programs to multiple championships. He is a man of character and integrity that will be a great role model for his players. There aren’t many brighter coaches in the country than Dave.”