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Randy Bates named AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year

The Pitt defensive coordinator has transformed the Panthers defense into a perennial top-20 unit

Pitt defensive coordinator Randy Bates was named the Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association on Tuesday after guiding the Panthers defense to a second straight dominant season.

Bates has been coaching since 1982 and joined the Pitt staff in 2018. Before his arrival, the Pitt defense ranked 69th in total defense, allowing 396.6 yards per game. In 2020, the unit ranked 20th, with 339.5 yards per game.

The defensive coordinator was chosen from a pool of 26 FBS coaches from across the country who were selected based on their on-field results and community service.

“Randy Bates represents the very best of the coaching profession,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “He’s a teacher first and foremost. I love that Randy is so passionate and committed to the people he works with, especially our players. He’s a great leader for not only our student-athletes, but also our staff. Randy is very deserving of this award.”

In a 2020 season shortened to 11 games by COVID-19, Bates’ defense led the nation in sacks, with 46, and tackles for losses, with 111. That was due in large part to a defensive line anchored by consensus All-Americans Patrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver, both of whom are expected to be selected in the early rounds of the 2021 NFL draft.

The previous year saw Pitt’s long-awaited emergence as a dominant defensive force under Narduzzi, as the team ranked 15th in total defense — Pitt’s highest ranking in that category since 2010 — and led the nation in sacks per game, with 3.92. The Panthers also ranked ninth nationally in tackles for loss per game, with 7.92, thanks in part to the meteoric rise of Pitt lineman Jaylen Twyman.

The Assistant Coach of the Year award has been issued annually since 1997 and was created to honor assistant coaches for their on-field results, community service and involvement in the AFCA organization. Some notable past recipients include Luke Fickell and Kirby Smart, both of whom went on to become head coaches at major programs.

Bates has been an AFCA member since 1985 and serves on the organization’s FBS Assistant Coaches Committee. He is a retired Navy lieutenant who spends time at the V.A. hospital and buys and distributes more than 100 tickets to Pitt football games to veterans every year.

The coming years should see Bates lead the Pitt defense to even greater heights, as the team has landed commitments from blue-chip recruits like Naquon Brown, Elliot Donald, Dorien Ford and Dayon Hayes in recent years, thanks in part to the team’s budding reputation as a defensive juggernaut. With them, Bates should have the necessary pieces to extend Pitt’s impressive run of form on defense.