Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes leaving for the same position at Oregon State after just 20 months on the job was seen as a surprise to many, but not to Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi.
Narduzzi said Tuesday at his press conference before the Pinstripe Bowl that he and his wife Donna had known about the family issue that precipitated the move and had discussed it with Barnes and his wife earlier in December.
“Him and his wife Jody had spoken to my wife and myself about his situation,” Narduzzi said. “We wish him and his family luck on their endeavors. Really, it was just a matter of him being close to his family.”
Loyalty is obviously a big deal for Narduzzi, who stayed at Michigan State as defensive coordinator for several years despite receiving multiple head coaching offers elsewhere, and he’s said that he’d like to see that same loyalty from his staff. But it doesn’t appear that he holds any ill will toward Barnes and the way things happened at Pitt.
“I respect him,” Narduzzi said. “He’s done a great job. If I was a chancellor or a president somewhere, I’d hire him, too. He’s a super person. It was a family reason that he made that move and I respect it.”
Barnes did not reveal any of the reasons for his leaving Pitt, but Pittsburgh Sports Now sources have confirmed that a family medical issue was the reason for the move. Barnes is set to address the media in Corvallis, Oregon for the first time on Thursday.
Frequently, when a new athletic director is hired, coaches already under contract are looked at as potential casualties of the change. But Narduzzi doesn’t sound worried about that scenario and cited the fact that the preceded Barnes on the staff and their successful relationship as a reason why.
“I’ve got the full support of the chancellor,” Narduzzi said. “He’s the guy that hired me and I helped get Scott hired here at Pitt.”
Chancellor Patrick Gallagher has announced that Dr. Randy Juhl will chair the committee that will choose the new athletic director. Dr. Juhl was also part of the group that hired Narduzzi and helped to select Barnes, so there’s plenty of reason to believe that the group should be able to select another AD that can work with Narduzzi.
With Narduzzi signed to a long-term contract extension and Kevin Stallings just coming on board, it doesn’t seem that many coaching hires will be on the docket for the incoming athletic director. Women’s basketball coach Suzie McConnell-Serio is in her fourth season with a promising young squad. Barnes had just hired men’s soccer coach Jay Vidovich in his first year and baseball coach Joe Jordano and softball coach Holly Aprille both own recent extensions.
Pitt has a long-term lease at Heinz Field, just complete renovations to the Petersen Events Center and just released a new branding and uniform identity. So there’s not really much of a need for a rush for the program to find a new athletic director. Expect Dr. Juhl and his committee to have as long as they need to identify candidates.
WEATHER AN ISSUE?
The forecast for Wednesday is an un-bowl like 43 degrees, but neither coach seemed bothered by the temperatures or the prospect of some cold-weather football.
“It’s been beautiful,” said Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald. “We’ve been in the 40s.”
“Great answer,” Narduzzi added.
Clearly, the two midwestern coaches — Fitzgerald is from Chicago, while Narduzzi is from Youngstown, Ohio — don’t mind the prospect of a cold-weather game.
Both teams are fairly balanced offensively, so the cold-for-college-football temperatures shouldn’t effect one team more than the other.