Mark Dantonio stepped down from his post as Michigan State’s head coach on Tuesday, begging questions about Pat Narduzzi’s future at Pitt. Narduzzi served as the Spartans defensive coordinator under Dantonio for eight seasons prior to his arrival in Pittsburgh in December 2014, and there was speculation that he would be targeted to replace his former boss. He addressed that speculation at a press conference on Wednesday and put it to rest, stating that he is happy at Pitt.
“Rumors are rumors, and speculation is speculation. I can’t tell you what’s going on in the outside world. I don’t know what’s happening up there [in East Lansing],” Narduzzi told reporters at Pitt’s practice facility on Wednesday. “But it’s my ultimate goal to be here at Pitt. I want to be here at Pitt. I came here to get a job done, and we’re going to continue to move forward. We couldn’t be in a better position than we are at the University of Pittsburgh. I mean, we really couldn’t. I’m blessed to be the head coach here.”
The Pitt coach has been the subject of similar speculation in the past, as his name came up in connection to an open head coach position at Purdue in 2016 as well as when Chris Ash was relieved of his duties as the head coach of Rutgers in December. Narduzzi dismissed rumors that he had interest in the Rutgers job, calling the situation “real simple.” However, he said that this opportunity was different due to his ties to Michigan State. He also suggested there was truth to the rumors that he had been contacted about the East Lansing job, as he said his phone was “blowing up” on Tuesday.
“This was not simple, because you’ve been there before,” Narduzzi said of the opportunity at Michigan State. “Sometimes you get torn. But there’s no looking back. ... I want to win championships here. ... Our players are committed, and their coach is committed. We can’t have a head coach with one foot in.”
Pitt has had a number of football coaches and coordinators lured away by schools with more money and prestige in the past. Johnny Majors, Jackie Sherrill, Walt Harris and Paul Chryst bolted for Tennessee, Texas A&M, Stanford and Wisconsin, respectively. And even during Narduzzi’s tenure, Pitt has lost offensive coordinators Jim Chaney and Matt Canada to Georgia and LSU, respectively. So losing a coach to Michigan State, even in its current state, would not be a surprising development.
However, thanks in part to Narduzzi’s success in building up the team, Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke’s commitment to supporting Pitt sports, and the turmoil surrounding Michigan State athletics at the moment, it is also not surprising that Narduzzi was comfortable voicing his commitment to Pitt, either.
With that said, the Michigan State job remains open, and the murmurs linking Narduzzi to East Lansing are unlikely to completely cease until a successor to Dantonio is announced. But for now, it seems the coach is content in Pittsburgh and focused on continuing to build on the foundation he has established.