PITTSBURGH — Since Pat Narduzzi arrived at Pitt in the winter of 2014, he has been selling recruits on the idea of one day playing in an ACC Championship game.
Saturday, he’ll deliver on that promise.
It’s a critical step toward building the program that Narduzzi envisioned when he first took the job.
Remember, Narduzzi was a fairly highly sought-after head coaching hire when Pitt pried him away from Michigan State. He’d won a Broyles Award and had already turned down head coaching offers, looking for the right fit.
One of the reason he thought Pittsburgh was a good fit was the personality of the city and the school matching his own, as well as it being close by to his hometown roots in Youngstown, Ohio.
Perhaps the biggest reason, though, was that he thought he could win championships at Pitt.
There wasn’t a lot in Pitt’s history that suggested it ought to be the case. From the time Pitt joined the Big East for football in 1990 to Narduzzi’s arrival, the Panthers won a grand total of two shared conference titles.
But in the landscape of 2014, the ACC Coastal Division was — and still remains to the this day — anybody’s game in any given year.
With Pitt’s division title this year, six different teams will represent the Coastal in the ACC Championship Game in a six-year period. The only team that’s been left out is Virginia, as Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Miami and now Pitt have all stocked their trophy cases with at least one Coastal title.
So yes, the Coastal has looked, and still does look imminently winnable for any team that’s able to go on a run.
That’s something that not only drew Narduzzi to Pitt, but that he’s emphasized as a big part of his recruiting pitch since he’s arrived here.
“That was really their whole recruiting pitch,” graduate transfer offensive lineman Stefano Millin said. “They believed they had enough talent coming back this season to get to the championship game. I think I even mentioned that … when I first committed to Pitt. That’s been the goal since they started talking to me. To see it come to fruition just reaffirms my decision to come here.”
Now, of course, Narduzzi can tweak that pitch a bit. Going forward, his recruits will know that Pitt can play for an ACC title. The next step is a strong showing against Clemson that would go a long way to proving that not only can Pitt make it to the ACC title game, the Panthers can win it.
“I’ve preached in recruiting for the last four years that we had a chance to play in a championship game,” Narduzzi said. “Now we’ve got to go prove that we can win a championship game.”