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Pat Narduzzi hired as Pitt head coach

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Former Michigan State defensive coordinator and Youngstown native Pat Narduzzi has been named the new head football coach at Pitt.

Narduzzi spent the past eight years orchestrating Michigan State’s national-ranked defense. Under his direction, the Spartans are the only team to rank in the nation’s top 10 in total defense and rushing defense each season from 2011-14. Working under two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year Mark Dantonio, Narduzzi has helped Michigan State to Top 25 finishes in four of the past six seasons.

“Our goal was not only to find the best football coach but also a person who would uphold the values and mission of the University of Pittsburgh. In Pat Narduzzi we have found that person,” said Pitt’s Acting Athletic Director Dr. Randy Juhl. “His achievements on the football field are well documented. Pat is widely regarded as a rising star in the coaching profession who is ready to lead his own program.”

The Spartans finished No. 3 in both polls last year following a Big Ten title and 24-20 victory over No. 5 Stanford in the Rose Bowl. In the wake of that championship season, Narduzzi was named the 2013 recipient of the prestigious Broyles Award, annually presented to the country’s top assistant coach.    

This season, Michigan State is ranked No. 8 in the country with a 10-2 record and will face No. 5 Baylor (11-1) in the 2015 AT&T Cotton Bowl on January 1 in Dallas, Texas. The Spartans once again boast an exceptional defense that yields just 293.5 yards per game (seventh best in FBS) and has forced a Big Ten-high 33 turnovers.

“The selection of Pat Narduzzi as our head football coach gave us an exceptionally satisfying conclusion to a very gratifying search,” Pitt Executive Vice Chancellor Jerry Cochran said. “As we began the process, we believed the Pitt head coaching position was a highly attractive opportunity. That belief was only reinforced by the tremendous interest we received from sitting head coaches as well as offensive and defensive coordinators from across the country. Ultimately, our feeling was unanimous that Pat was the best person to lead our program into what will be a very exciting future.”

Cochran said Pitt’s search committee—chaired by him and including Juhl, Chancellor Michael Gallagher and Associate Dean Donna Sanft—conducted in depth interviews with five candidates before settling on Narduzzi. Gallagher, who was not in attendance at the press conference, took an unusually active role in the interview process in order to "provide direct assurances to potential candidates,” according to Juhl.

"It is with a great deal of pride, humility and excitement that I accept the position of head football coach at the University of Pittsburgh," said Narduzzi. "It is a position I hope to hold for many years to come."

Narduzzi spent a great deal of time thanking his fellow coaches and players at Michigan State.

"It's the players who make the plays," Narduzzi said, "I just coach them."

Narduzzi also talked a lot about growing up in Youngstown and learning the game of football from his father, the late Bill Narduzzi, a former Youngstown State head coach.

"I'll never forget where I came from," Narduzzi said, as he began thanking his junior high and high school coaches in eastern Ohio, all the way through his college coaches at Youngstown State and Rhode Island, before working his way through his stops as an assistant coach.

"I’m highly motivated to build this football program into national prominence,” he said. "My new quest begins today."

Narduzzi has been considered one of the top assistant coaches in the NCAA the past several seasons, and has turned down several Division 1 head coaching jobs. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said that Narduzzi has been waiting for the perfect fit, something Narduzzi claims to have found at Pitt.

"I've loved the toughness here,” he said. “I've loved the hotbed of football that you've got here and in the surrounding areas... I think you can win championships here."

Narduzzi called the money available to hire assistants, "very important," and said that he was assured that "we've got every weapon and tool to get the best coaches on staff here at Pitt."

After meeting with his new team this evening, Narduzzi said he plans to start the process of calling recruits and hiring his staff. He’ll be pulling double-duty, though, as he intends to return to Michigan State to coach the Spartans defense in the Cotton Bowl against Baylor.

"It's important to me because it’s unfinished business now," said Narduzzi. "The season's not over."

Narduzzi is Pitt’s fifth head coach since 2010. The last two—Todd Graham and Paul Chryst—left for other jobs after one and three seasons, respectively. While Narduzzi said he was unclear on exactly what defines a “destination job,” he said he plans to be at Pitt for a long time.

"Coach Chryst probably felt that Pitt was a ‘destination job,’ but then he had the opportunity to go home...” Narduzzi said. “I'm a loyal guy. I don't know exactly why [the search committee] hired me, but I would think that one of the reasons was that I'm a loyal guy. I've had the opportunity to leave [Michigan State], but I've been looking for the perfect place... This is my home. It's 50 miles down the street from where I grew up... I won't call it a destination job, but this is home."

Prior to Michigan State, Narduzzi spent three years (2004-06) as defensive coordinator under Dantonio at Cincinnati.

Michigan State's Dantonio congratulated his former coordinator on his first head coaching job.

“The success we’ve enjoyed over the last eight seasons, both collectively and on the defensive side of the football, has afforded Pat with this opportunity to become a head coach in a Power 5 Conference," said Dantonio. "That’s a tremendous accomplishment, and he’ll do an outstanding job at Pittsburgh. We wish him nothing but the best.

In 2003, Narduzzi was the defensive coordinator at Miami-Ohio under the late Terry Hoeppner. Ben Roethlisberger was the RedHawks quarterback that season, leading Miami to a 13-1 record and a No. 10 ranking in the Associated Press poll. Narduzzi’s defense topped the MAC in rushing defense (19th nationally), scoring defense (22nd nationally) and pass efficiency defense (34th nationally).

Narduzzi served as linebackers coach at Northern Illinois for three seasons (2000-02). NIU won a pair of MAC divisional titles during his tenure and in 2002 had the league’s top rushing defense.

From 1993-98, Narduzzi coached at his alma mater, Rhode Island, serving as the Rams’ defensive coordinator his final two seasons. He began his coaching career at Miami-Ohio, working as a graduate assistant in 1990 and 1991, before earning his first full-time position as receivers coach for the 1992 season.

An all-state performer at Youngstown’s Ursuline High School, Narduzzi was a starting linebacker under his father Bill as a freshman at Youngstown State in 1985. He transferred to Rhode Island after Jim Tressel was hired to replace his father. Narduzzi became a three-year starter for the Rams from 1987-89.

He and his wife Donna have four children: Arianna, Christina, Patrick and Isabella.

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