Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi said there’s no time to steal signals, even if he wanted to try
When Penn State coach James Franklin said he changed play signals as soon as safety John Petrishen transferred from Penn State to Pitt, Pat Narduzzi smiled.
“I haven’t said anything about Eric Thatcher (Penn State’s assistant recruiting coordinator),” Pitt’s coach said Thursday. “He sat in (Pitt’s) defensive meeting rooms for two years.”
Thatcher played safety at Pitt under Walt Harris and Dave Wannstedt and was a defensive quality control coach for Narduzzi.
“I’m sure he’s a ball coach this week,” Narduzzi said, “trying to fill them in on what we do.”
Narduzzi admitted to levels of paranoia when it comes to protecting signals. Pitt uses tarps on the sideline when diagramming plays and picture boards that might or might not mean something specific about the next play.
But he said it’s difficult to steal signals during a game and relay the information to the players on the field.
“First of all, defensively, you can’t steal an offensive signal. There’s no time,” Narduzzi said. “We’re busy getting our own signals (in). Are we going to signal to our defense and then tell them what the offensive play is? Defensively, your hands are tied. You can’t steal signals.
“That’s me. Maybe I’m just a dumb football coach.”
Narduzzi said signal stealing can occur on offense because that side of the ball controls the tempo, but he said Pitt is innocent on that front, too. He said it’s easier just to run the play called by offensive coordinator Mark Whipple than to complicate things with another set of signals.
“Have you seen (Pitt quarterback) Kenny Pickett ever look to the sideline to get a second call?” Narduzzi said. “People who look to the sideline usually are the people who are stealing signals. People who don’t look to the sideline are just running a play.
“If you don’t look to the sideline, you’re not stealing signals. I can promise you. We haven’t stolen any signals because we don’t do that.”
He also said the play clock is a factor in keeping teams honest.
“It’s not like they give us two minutes to take a snap. If that was the case, maybe we could,” he said. “Maybe we’re just all not very good coaches and we haven’t been thieves.“
Pitt, actually, might have been the victim of a sign stealer in 1975. As the story goes, then-West Virginia defensive coordinator Chuck Klausing borrowed a 16mm camera from WTAE-TV, gave it to his son Tommy and told him to film Pitt’s game against Navy. Two weeks later, West Virginia defeated Pitt, 17-14, the only time the Mountaineers beat a Pitt team coached by either Johnny Majors or Jackie Sherrill.
Narduzzi probably never heard that story, but he insists signal stealing won’t decide the outcome of any of his games, no matter how pervasive it might be.
“If I had (Penn State’s) notebook sitting here,” he said, pointing to the conference table in front of him, “that’s not going to help me win a football game. I can promise you that.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .