Dicken, Keirnan Complete ISU Football Coaching Hires

Jan. 17, 2014

NORMAL, Ill. - The final two vacancies on the Illinois State football coaching staff were filled Friday, when head coach Brock Spack announced the additions of assistant coaches Billy Dicken as wide receivers coach and former Redbird player Kane Keirnan as the team's offensive staff assistant.

A Bloomington (Ill.) High School graduate, Dicken spent the last four seasons across town as a full-time assistant coach at Illinois Wesleyan working under head coach Norm Eash, but finished his 12th year as a Titan assistant overall. As the team's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2013, Dicken helped the Titans advance to the NCAA Division III playoffs for the third time in five seasons and a No. 14 national ranking.

Before returning to the Twin Cities, he was the wide receivers coach at Division II Eastern New Mexico in 2009, when the Greyhounds were the national leader with 448 passing yards per game.

"I've known Billy for a long time from his playing days at Purdue, and I think he will work well with Kurt (Beathard) and the rest of our offensive staff," Spack said. "He's coached quarterbacks and receivers at the collegiate level and was a coordinator across town at Illinois Wesleyan. His familiarity with the offensive system we like to run here will help, and his maturation as a coach over the last several years has earned him this opportunity."


 

 

Dicken and Spack have a long history together, as Dicken was a quarterback for Purdue during Spack's tenure as defensive coordinator with the Boilermakers. As a senior in 1997, Dicken thrived under the tutelage of then first-year head coach Joe Tiller and his spread offensive attack. Dicken led the Big Ten Conference in pass attempts (407), completions (224), passing yards (3,136) and passing touchdowns (21) on his way to being named a First Team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches. He was also named the "Outstanding Offensive Player" in the Alamo Bowl, when he tied Purdue single-game marks with five touchdown passes and 60 attempts.

After his career at Purdue, Dicken went on to play for several Arena Football League teams including the Columbus Destroyers, New Orleans VooDoo, Detroit Fury, Chicago Rush and Quad City Steamwheelers as well as the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League. A 2008 graduate of Illinois State, he has a master's degree from Eastern New Mexico in Sports Administration. Bill and his wife, Jessica, were married in May 2010.

Keirnan returns to Illinois State after a two-year stint as an offensive graduate assistant coach at New Mexico, where he worked with the Lobo wide receivers and tight ends. In his previous stint at ISU, Keirnan was an offensive student assistant for Spack and then offensive coordinator Luke Huard, working with the tight ends and H-backs.

"Kane was an easy hire because of the familiarity we have with him," Spack stated. "When he was injured here and his career came to an end, he stayed involved with the program as a student coach and did a great job. I recommended him for the job at New Mexico and I got raving reviews about his work ethic there from the coaches. He did exactly what I knew he would do with that opportunity and I know he's looking forward to working at his alma mater and being back close to home."

In 2011, the Redbirds showed a 52.4-yard improvement in the running game, up from 131 rushing yards per game in 2010 to 183.4 yards per game in 2011. The offense ranked No. 3 in the nation in fewest sacks allowed, and the team finished the regular season ranked 17th. In 2010, the Redbirds ranked second in the Missouri Valley Conference and 15th in the nation with a 258.4 passing-yards-per-game average and ISU's 321 total points was the 10th-best yearly total in school history.

Keirnan signed a scholarship with Illinois State as an H-back in 2008, but three ankle surgeries between the years 2008 and 2009 ended his playing career, which led him to staying involved in the program as a student assistant before earning his degree in 2012. A 2008 graduate of Glenbard West High School, Keirnan earned all-state, all-area, all-conference and academic all-conference honors in 2006 and 2007. Before that, Keirnan spent two years at Montini Catholic High School in Lombard, Ill., where he took part in the school's first-ever state championship appearance in 2004.

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