Joe Starkey: Pitt got it right with Pat Narduzzi

Calm down. Nobody’s saying Pat Narduzzi has Pitt on the precipice of a national championship. Nobody’s building a statue. Nobody is even denying (I don’t think) that Narduzzi is coming off a disappointing season.
But if Pitt has reached the point where nine wins is a disappointment, who could legitimately complain?
In fact, I would say with plenty of evidence that as the ACC kicked off its 2023 media days on Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C., Narduzzi had the program in a better place than at any time since the early 1980s.
The early ‘80s were better, mind you (please remain calm), and the statement above might be damning with faint praise considering Pitt basically went 6-6 for 35 years. But if the vision in hiring Narduzzi was to win more games, raise Pitt’s profile and stabilize a program that was about as stable as Antonio Brown, vision realized.
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I will remind you one more time that the goal here is not to canonize Narduzzi. But the facts don’t lie. He has put Pitt in a pretty good place.
Consider ...
• Since Narduzzi arrived in 2015, Pitt has the second-best conference record in the ACC at 41-25. Clemson has dominated, going 60-5 in that stretch, but Pitt is the only conference team to beat Clemson twice in that span and the only one to win at Clemson. (43-42 ring a bell?)
• Narduzzi owns Pitt’s only outright conference title (2021) since the Panthers joined the Big East in 1991.
• Pitt has finished back-to-back seasons ranked in the AP poll for the first time since 1982 and ’83 under Foge Fazio.
• On the stability front, Narduzzi is headed into Year 9, believe it or not, which will give him one more year than Walt Harris and the longest Pitt tenure since John Michelosen went 11 straight from 1955-65. It will also tie Narduzzi with Pop Warner for the third-longest tenure in Pitt history, and he is second in wins behind only Jock Sutherland.
Noah Hiles
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The world’s greatest calculator couldn’t count the number of times we have talked about Pitt “getting to another level” since Walt Harris arrived. Narduzzi finally found one. It’s not the penthouse, by any means, but it’s a noticeable upgrade. He has certainly surpassed Harris (who, to be fair, inherited a dumpster fire) and Wannstedt:
— Harris: 52-44 overall (.542), 28-27 in conference (.509)
— Wannstedt: 42-31 (.575), 24-18 (.571)
— Narduzzi: 62-41 (.602), 41-25 (.621)
Stability, of course, is all relative considering the state of college football these days. The whole enterprise could blow up again at any point. And I reserve the right to change my mind on Narduzzi in the years ahead. This should be an interesting one as Pitt transitions to a new quarterback and a slew of new starters.
Only three teams in the ACC have fewer returning starters than Pitt’s projected 11 — and none has less returning production on defense. Most people have the Panthers finishing in the middle of the ACC pack.
It’s wild to think back on how low Pitt football fell after Wannstedt. None-and-done Michael Haywood. One-and-done Todd Graham. Three-and-done Paul Chryst (19-19 overall, 10-13 in conference). Too many interim coaches to recall. Pitt didn’t even have a full-time athletic director when their job search netted them Narduzzi in December 2014.
You might recall it was a search led by chancellor Patrick Gallagher and adviser Jerry Cochran. (Randy Juhl was interim AD.) Cochran retired that year and passed away in 2018. Helping land Narduzzi proved to be his last official act at the university.
I’d say he helped them find the right man.

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