Panthers football coach Pat Narduzzi agreed to a two-year extension Thursday that will keep him at Pitt through the 2021 season. The former Michigan State defensive coordinator went 8-4 in his first season at Pitt, leading the Panthers to their most wins since 2009.
“I’m not a guy that likes to move around a whole bunch,” Narduzzi said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I was with the same head coach (Mark Dantonio) for the last 11 years. I’ve got four children. One just graduated from Michigan State. One is a sophomore here at Pitt and loves the campus and loves the university right now. She’s really having fun being in a beautiful city. I’ve got a junior golfer and then I’ve got an eighth-grade girl. I’m a family guy that likes to have a place to call home. I don’t know if I could be in a better place in the United States than in the city of Pittsburgh with the support we’ve got here. I just don’t know if there’s a better place.”
The Panthers had finished 6-7 in three of the last four seasons before going 8-4 this year. Their only losses came against No. 5 Iowa, No. 10 North Carolina, No. 8 Notre Dame and Miami.
“It’s about adversity,” Narduzzi said, explaining the mindset he’s trying to instill in his players. “Every game, there’s going to be ups and downs and we just try to teach our guys that, ‘Hey, listen, you control your destiny. What are you going to do the next play? You can’t worry about what happened the last play.’ It’s that focus, that attitude, about what kind of team we’re going to be – not only tough physically, but we got to be tough mentally. We got to push through those things – and we did that the entire season. There wasn’t one game that we walked off the field and went in that locker room and said we didn’t give it our all. I think that’s what the Pitt faithful are excited about. We were never quitting. Were we the most talented team out there every week? Probably not. But at the end of the day, our guys are going to go out here and give it everything we’ve got – and the coaches as well.”
Pitt will face No. 21 Navy (9-2) in the Military Bowl on Dec. 28. It will be the Panthers’ second triple-option opponent this season; they defeated Georgia Tech, 31-28, on Oct. 17, holding the Yellow Jackets to just seven points in the second half.
“We will benefit from playing Georgia Tech early in the year,” Narduzzi said. “They do a great job with the triple. We ended up winning that game but didn’t play as good as we wanted to on defense. So I think it’s a great learning experience for us. Our guys know what you have to (do) to win that game. . . . We’ll have our work cut out for us, but our kids understand it doesn’t matter if it’s option football or spread offense – which is basically option football nowadays – that you’ve got to be disciplined to play this game.”
A win over Navy would give the Panthers their ninth win of the season. Pitt has finished with 9+ wins just twice since 2002.
Narduzzi’s excellent first season wasn’t lost on Pitt, which is probably why he received an extension. But it’s possible that other more high-profile programs will come calling – and sooner rather than later. Narduzzi, however, said he doesn’t mind getting questions about whether he’s going to stay at Pitt.
“Not really,” he said. “I think the media and the fans may be sick of saying it to themselves, but I don’t get that question as much as you would think I might get it. But for the last five years at Michigan State, there was always rumors every year. People would say ‘Please stay, please stay, don’t leave.’ I’m like, ‘I’m not going anywhere. I’m right here. I’m walking down the hallways.’ So I’m used to it and that doesn’t bother me. That’s part of the territory that you’re in. When things are going well, people want you to stay, and when they’re not, they’re ready to kick you out. That’s kind of the business we’re in.