For the second consecutive offseason, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi will need to find an offensive coordinator, as first-year coordinator Matt Canada has accepted an offer to take the same job at Louisiana State.
“On behalf of our entire program, I want to thank Matt for his many important contributions, on and off the field, this past year,” Narduzzi said in a statement released by the team. “When you hire great people and have success, your staff will always be in demand. I’m confident we will find another outstanding person and professional to continue our momentum.”
Canada follows Narduzzi’s 2015 offensive coordinator — Jim Chaney — who is now with Georgia after also just serving one season at Pitt
There’s a lot to unpack here, so I’m going to break things up into one step at a time.
WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING?
Two years, two coordinators, both sailing off into the southern sunset for an (apparently) sunnier job than what Pitt can offer. But that isn’t necessarily an indictment of Narduzzi, athletic director Scott Barnes, or the program at Pitt.
Chaney did not seem to be a great fit alongside Narduzzi, personality-wise. While Canada certainly was, he smartly cashed in on his best season as an offensive coordinator with a high-profile, high-paying gig that will likely lead to even greater opportunities for him if he’s even able to have a moderate level of success.
It’s not just about the three-year, $3 million contract, either. Canada said to me earlier this year that he has aspirations of someday being a head coach. At age 44, if someday doesn’t come pretty soon, he’s going to end up pigeonholed as an offensive coordinator. The jump from coordinator to head man is not an easy one to make. Lane Kiffin just had to go to Florida Atlantic to get a head job and he was coming from Alabama, not Pitt.
Canada is an Indiana native. This offseason, after he was the only offensive coordinator that was a Broyles Award finalist, Canada didn’t get an interview for the open jobs at Indiana or Purdue or even Western Kentucky. That doesn’t happen if he’s coaching at LSU. Even on relatively down years, coordinators at the big-time SEC schools are frequently mentioned in coaching searches.
If Canada wants to be a head coach — and there’s no reason to believe that isn’t true — there’s no question that he’s in a better place to achieve that goal today than he was yesterday.
Pitt has come a long way in just two years under Pat Narduzzi, but clearly, Pitt isn’t at the same level from an exposure or notoriety standpoint as LSU. Even if they were, that would be no guarantee that they’d have continuity on the coaching staff.
Baylor, Indiana, LSU, Oregon, Purdue and Texas all had head coaching changes this year and Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Pitt, Rutgers, UCLA and Wake Forest have lost or fired coordinators. That’s about 25 percent of the Power Five schools and the coaching carousel hasn’t stopped spinning yet.
Losing coaches and coordinators year after year isn’t a Pitt problem, it’s a college football problem, and it’s not likely to change any time soon.
NOT ALL ABOUT THE MONEY
While Canada did receive a significant raise (his salary at Pitt is not public information, but sources tell Pittsburgh Sports Now it was in the $550,000 range), the move is not all about the money.
A million dollars is a huge chunk of change, but Pitt was prepared to make Canada the highest-paid offensive coordinator in the ACC, which would have neared $700,000 annually. Given Canada’s comfort level with Narduzzi and success at Pitt when compared to the prospect of going to a place that he’s never recruited heavily before while working under a first-year head coach in Ed Orgeron in a high-pressure environment, the money probably didn’t end up being that big of a factor.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW? — SHORT TERM
Canada will stay with the team through Pitt’s Pinstripe Bowl appearance on Dec. 28 before taking the reins at LSU, and Narduzzi said in a statement Wednesday that his search for a replacement won’t begin until then.
All of the Pitt assistant coaches on the offensive side of the ball predated Canada at Pitt and Orgeron, who was promoted from defensive line coach to head coach, will likely want to keep some of the existing staff in place at LSU, so it seems pretty unlikely that Pitt will lose any other assistants out of this deal.
In other words, expect things to be pretty much business as usual from a football perspective for the next few weeks.
A lot of times when a coordinator leaves, it can have a negative effect on recruiting. Mike Vukovkan has an extensive breakdown of the reaction from Pitt’s Class of 2017 here, and it seems that not many — if any — recruits are fazed by the news.
The one area it could hurt is for some players that Pitt was still pursuing that have not committed, and that includes graduate transfer quarterbacks Max Browne and Malik Zaire, who Canada and Pitt have been aggressively pursuing. Browne was on campus for a visit last weekend, and left with positive things to say about Pittsburgh, but not a commitment.
It’s now a dead period for recruiting, which means that coaches can’t have face-to-face contact with recruits, anyway, so as long as a replacement is in place by mid-January, the effect on recruiting should be minimal.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW? — LONG TERM
Narduzzi will look for the same things he looked for when he hired Canada — a coordinator that wants to run a pro-style offense and is a good fit with Narduzzi’s personality.
Narduzzi also values loyalty and while he’s clearly not upset at Canada making what could be considered a sideways move — otherwise he likely wouldn’t be coaching the bowl game — Narduzzi will probably also look to make a hire that lasts more than one year.
CANDIDATES FOR THE JOB
I’m hesitant to run out a long list of candidates here, because last season, Narduzzi kept things quiet and made his decision on Canada quickly. Canada wasn’t highly speculated as an option before Narduzzi announced the hire.
That situation seemed to be a bit serendipitous in that Canada had just been fired by North Carolina State and was looking for a new job and Narduzzi and Canada had a longstanding relationship back to their time at Northern Illinois in 2002.
I can’t know for sure if Narduzzi has another old friend in the business or someone in mind right away for him to make a similar move as a season ago, but he has certainly shown the ability to keep things close to the vest when he wants to, so I would take any list of potential candidates with a huge grain of salt.
Narduzzi said that he doesn’t expect to hire a new coordinator until after Pitt’s bowl game, which could just be prudent, given the timing of everything. It could also mean that Narduzzi already has a candidate in mind. When Chaney left for Georgia before Pitt played in the Military Bowl in 2015, Canada was still under contract with North Carolina State.
But Canada was fired right after NC State’s bowl game and hired by Pitt a few days later. It’s possible that Narduzzi has a candidate with a job that he either thinks will be available or will be willing leave his current job, but not until after the bowl game.
EXCEPT FOR THIS ONE
The big exception to that would be tight ends coach Tim Salem, who has expressed interest in the job in the past. Narduzzi even went as far to call him a candidate a year ago.
Salem certainly has extensive experience. He was the coordinator at Purdue from 1994 to 1996, he was quarterbacks coach under Jim Tressel at Ohio State from 1997 to 2000, then was a coordinator again at Eastern Michigan in 2003 and at Central Florida from 2004 to 2008.
Running backs coach and special teams coordinator Andre Powell also has the experience to be considered a candidate, but would probably be behind Salem as far as internal options go.