I had planned to take closer looks at all of Pitt's rumored candidates for the head coaching job, but with everything else going on, I'm not sure I'll get around to it. That said, I wanted to at least profile Michigan State defensive coordinator, Pat Narduzzi,who seemingly is the school's top target.
First, the vitals:
Born: New Haven, CT
Education: BS degree in Phys Ed from Rhode Island (1990), MS degree in sports psychology from Miami (OH) (1992)
Playing Career: Linebacker at Youngstown State (1985), Linebacker at Rhode Island (1987-1989)
Coaching Experience: Defensive Coordinator at Michigan State (2006-Present), Defensive Coordinator at Cincinnati (2004-2006), Defensive Coordinator at Miami-Ohio (2003), Linebackers Coach at Northern Illinois (2000-2002), Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach at Rhode Island (1993-1999), Graduate Assistant and Wide Receivers Coach at Miami-Ohio (1990-1992)
Narduzzi is widely recognized as one of the top assistants in college football. He won the Broyles Award in 2013, given to the nation's top assistant coach. Plenty of fans, myself included, would like to see someone with head coaching experience. But there's true value in what Narduzzi has accomplished and if you're going for an assistant, Narduzzi is about as well-regarded as it gets.
He doesn't have the experience as a head coach, but Mark Dantonio has tried to give him some more responsibilities than just those of a coordinator. In March 2013, Narduzzi became an assistant head coach. And after the announcement, Dantonio says he was going to allow Narduzzi to take on some of the day-to-day roles as a head coach. If nothing else, Narduzzi has at least had a taste of being a head coach.
In addition, Narduzzi has also spent time on things needed to be a head coach:
"Pat has worked very hard over the last six or seven years to pick up the other skills head coaches need,'' Hollis said. "You have to be a fundraiser and engage with the faculty, and be part-therapist as well as a support structure for your student athletes. Pat has worked extremely hard at grooming his skills in public speaking and understanding the athletic department beyond the football office.
Then there's this - Narduzzi is not only a defensive coordinator, but one that has had a lot of experience in that role. Sometimes there can be concerns about giving a coordinator a head job, but Narduzzi has a whopping 15 years of coordinator experience with ten years of that at major programs in Michigan State and Cincinnati.
Narduzzi wants to be a head coach, but isn't in an extreme hurry. He reportedly turned down the UConn job last year. That's the publicized one, but Dantoni says that Narduzzi has rejected a lot of jobs.
"He was offered positions, OK?" Dantonio said on the second of two Big Ten media days at Hilton Chicago. "Not just one, he was offered a number of positions.
And Pitt fans should be interested in this - a big reason he turned down the UConn job? The school apparently didn't provide as much money for assistant coaches:
Narduzzi had interviewed for the job as Paul Pasqualoni‘s permanent replacement earlier in the week, and was considered by some to be the front-runner for the job. FootballScoop tweeted that "Manuel’s offer to Narduzzi was ‘aggressive’ for the [head coach] but not as robust for [assistants] as was hoped for."
We don't know exactly what Pitt pays its assistants since they don't release that information. But you can find a list a mile long of the rumors that it hasn't been a ton. Makes you wonder if it would be a sticking point in hiring Narduzzi if they didn't pay enough. That shows that even if Pitt is willing to pay up for him, that probably will need to extend to the assistants. Pitt has a new Chancellor and they are expected to open up the vault a little more than in past years. But based on past history, until it actually happens, it's definitely something to keep an eye on.
Speaking of money, Narduzzi is pretty valuable to Michigan State. He made $900,000 last year and was the highest-paid assistant in the Big Ten. This year, fearing they could lose him after UConn came calling, Michigan State ponied up a $3 million endowment just last month. Now, part of that went to the basketball program, but part of it also not only went to the football program, but specifically to keep Narduzzi:
"Helping to ensure the future success of Michigan State University Athletics, Alumni Peter and Joan Secchia have made a leadership gift in support of Empower Extraordinary — the campaign for Michigan State, the university announced today. The $3 million gift is being directed toward the endowment of the defensive coordinator position and capital improvements for the MSU men’s basketball program."
Still, you can't imagine that a little extra money would keep Narduzzi around over a head coaching job, where he would earn more than that, anyway. What it does, show, however, is just how much the Spartans value Narduzzi.
On the field, Narduzzi's defenses have been downright impressive. From 2011-2013, Michigan State has had the top defense in the Big Ten, and in 2014, they had another huge season, ranking 13th in total scoring per game (19.9 points allowed). I won't run down his entire list of accomplishments - you can find all of that here.
Then there's the 'Chryst factor.' If Narduzzi came to Pitt, would he head back to Michigan State if that job ever became open? He's not a Michigan native and didn't go to school there, but the idea of Narduzzi as the next head coach there has been discussed in public.
Dantonio said he has talked with Narduzzi about the possibility of Narduzzi some day replacing him. MSU athletic director Mark Hollis, who more than doubled Narduzzi's salary in 2012, said a plan of succession is something that could be discussed in the future.
"My hope is that he'll be here for a long time," Hollis said of the 57-year-old Dantonio. "But there's no question, I wouldn't hesitate to have Pat in that mix. We sit down and think of things at the end of every year, that's not a decision we would make at midseason. But I have the highest confidence in Pat's ability to be a head coach at Michigan State, or somewhere else."
Chances are, it'll be somewhere else first.
If Michigan State feels that Narduzzi is really the guy they want after Dantonio, could they put a succession plan in place to hopefully keep him from leaving? Sure. But this isn't Bobby Bowden/Jimbo Fisher here. Dantonio is 58 and could conceivably be coaching for many more years. For something to keep Narduzzi from leaving, you'd have to think that it would have to be a plan to replace Dantonio within a few years and not something 15 years down the road.
So if he came to Pitt, it's not inconceivable that he would leave if the Michigan State job became open. Despite that he's not an alum or a Michigan native, he has deep ties there because he's been there for nearly a decade.
Narduzzi's lack of head coaching experience is surely something that will keep some fans from thinking he's the right choice. But, overall, his track record is impressive and what interests me is the respect that Michigan State has for him. If selected, this has the look of a decent hire for the Panthers.
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