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Pitt

Kevin Gorman: Pitt football puts its money on Pat Narduzzi

| Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, 6:33 p.m.
Pitt Athletic Director Heather Lyke and head football coach Pat Narduzzi during a news conference about a 7-year contract extension Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt Athletic Director Heather Lyke and head football coach Pat Narduzzi during a news conference about a 7-year contract extension Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Pitt Athletic Director Heather Lyke and head football coach Pat Narduzzi during a news conference about a 7-year contract extension Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt Athletic Director Heather Lyke and head football coach Pat Narduzzi during a news conference about a 7-year contract extension Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

Pat Narduzzi made a verbal slip when he said aloud what the rest of the college football world has been whispering about the Pitt football program: “This is not a destination job.”

We know Narduzzi meant the opposite, considering he preceded that statement by saying how much he wants to be in Pittsburgh and followed it by talking about the people he works with and for.

Pitt put its money where its mouth is, betting Narduzzi won't treat its head football coaching job like a stepping stone by extending his contract three years through the 2024 season.

“I've never been one to go looking for a job,” said Narduzzi, who added he doesn't have an agent. “I like to have stability.”

Narduzzi talked about loyalty being a two-way street, but Fifth and Forbes are both one-way avenues that led Todd Graham to Arizona State after a season and Paul Chryst to Wisconsin after three.

So, Pitt was less worried about Narduzzi's 5-7 record in his third season and more focused on keeping him here after the Panthers upset No. 2 Miami on Nov. 24.

“Stability is something we've never had at Pitt with the right people,” Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said. “So why wouldn't you consider that?”

Consider this: When Pitt rewarded Narduzzi, it seized the momentum of the Miami victory and gave him an edge on the recruiting trail.

It was Narduzzi's second victory over the nation's No. 2 team in as many years, leading him to joke he should put a “2” before every team on Pitt's schedule.

When the coaching carousel is spinning so out of control schools are fighting over N.C. State's Dave Doeren, why would Pitt ever run the risk of losing Narduzzi?

“Timing was important, but we were going to do this, regardless of the outcome of the Miami game and regardless of whether we won an ACC championship,” Lyke said. “There's no question that the expectations are not going to change. It was just fortuitous that we won, and there was a lot of positive momentum.

“If you were at that game, you felt it and saw it and witnessed it. It's obviously an incredibly bright future. It timed up really nicely.”

Now you can question Pitt's timing, especially after following back-to-back, eight-win seasons with a 5-7 campaign that saw the Panthers lose at home to one-win North Carolina and stopped short of the goal line four times in the final minute at Virginia Tech.

But there is belief at Pitt that Narduzzi has the Panthers pointed in the right direction, belief he can lead them to ACC and national championships.

“Coach Narduzzi is a difference maker. He's the perfect fit for Pitt,” Lyke said. “His confidence and belief is often contagious, and every once in a while, he'll profess that during a halftime interview, which isn't a bad thing.

“You have to believe before it's going to happen, and I think that's what we both share is the common belief in Pitt.”

What the contract extension does is arm Narduzzi with the ammunition to combat negative recruiting and promises to provide upgrades to Pitt's facilities and expand the salary pool for his assistants as the NCAA expands staff to 10 coaches.

Narduzzi told a story about sitting in the home of a recruit who's mother asked about his job security. Instead of telling her, he offered to let her listen to a voicemail from Pitt chancellor Patrick Gallagher “that will answer everything.”

If Narduzzi completes his contract he will become the first Pitt football coach since John Michelosen to survive a decade with the Panthers.

Michelosen was Pitt's coach from 1955-65. At eight seasons, Walt Harris is the Panthers' longest-tenured coach of the past half-century. Dave Wannstedt lasted six, which is a year more than Jackie Sherrill.

Lyke declined to give details on the deal but called it a “significant investment” into the football program, “an investment that not only helps determine our destiny but establishes Pitt as a destination.”

Which is really what Narduzzi was trying to say in the first place.

Now, he has to learn how to put his mouth where Pitt's money is.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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