DES MOINES - Drake always knew it might lose head coach Chris Creighton to a bigger program.
The Bulldogs also believed the perfect replacement was already on campus. Drake introduced Rick Fox as its 26th head coach on Monday in place of Creighton, who last week accepted the Eastern Michigan job.
Fox spent the past six seasons on Creighton's staff as the offensive line and special teams coach, and he also served as Creighton's assistant head coach for the past three years.
"We could have scoured the entire country for the very best football coach. The very best fit for Drake University, and the very best man to add to our family, and I promise you this: I'm 100 percent confident that that search would have taken us right back here to Drake University and to ... Rick Fox," Drake athletic director Sandy Hatfield-Clubb said.
Drake went 44-22 under Creighton, including two titles in the FCS-affiliated Pioneer Football League. In 2011, Creighton spearheaded efforts to have the non-scholarship Bulldogs compete in the first college football game played in Africa.
Fox said he and Creighton "beat with the same heartbeat" as far their vision for a program is concerned, so don't expect many changes off the field for the Bulldogs in 2014. Drake finished 6-5 last season after back-to-back shares of the PFL title in 2011 and 2012.
"My stamp on the program is what you see in the program right now," Fox said. "I look forward to building on that."
Though the Drake job is Fox's first as a head coach, he has been a college coach for nearly 30 years.
Fox joined the staff at his alma mater, Wheaton College in Illinois, in 1986 as a graduate assistant. Fox was the offensive line coach at Aurora (Ill.) from 1987-92 before rejoining Wheaton as the offensive line and special teams coach.
Fox was the offensive coordinator at Centre College in Kentucky before joining Creighton's first staff at Drake in 2008.
Fox's offensive line helped spring the Bulldogs to at least 4,000 yards of offense in each of the past three seasons. But perhaps just as important to Hatfield-Clubb and the Drake administration, which heavily emphasizes academics, is that the Bulldogs led the PFL with 10 academic all-league picks under the leadership of Creighton and Fox.
"I am beyond delighted that Rick Fox has agreed to take the reins of the program and to continue to build on the accomplishments to which he's contributed greatly over the past six years. Beyond his expertise in football, he's a man with a vision, integrity, character and energy," Drake president David Maxwell said in a letter read by Hatfield-Clubb Monday.