So far, the impacts of COVID-19 on Pitt’s player availability have been fairly minimal through two games this season. Pitt had two starters miss the team’s opener against Austin Peay among seven total players. Just three players and only one from the two-deep weren’t in attendance for last Saturday’s ACC opener against Syracuse.
Other teams have had it far worse, as outbreaks have caused numerous cancellations and postponements around the ACC and the rest of college football, with this Saturday’s Notre Dame-Wake Forest game the latest casualty.
But there’s also another type of absence brewing this Saturday. Florida State is set to take the field against No. 12 Miami this Saturday, but Seminoles head coach and former Pitt assistant Mike Norvell will not be joining them.
Norvell announced over the weekend that he had tested positive for COVID-19, and like any player, he must wait the allotted amount of time until he can return to the field. Deputy head coach Chris Thomsen will assume Norvell’s role, keeping his coordinators in place for play-calling purposes.
It’s a scenario that Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi has entertained, but he’s hoping that he doesn’t have to go through.
“My wife would be the interim head coach, so I could get her out of the house so that can sit at home,” Narduzzi joked. “We’ve had conversations. We won’t get into that until we’ve got to. …
“We’ve got a plan what to do for every position. If Coach Bates is out, who goes in. What happens with Whipple? We’ve got a plan. And then what happens if he goes down? So there’s a plan of a plan of a plan that we’ve kind of put in place back months ago. We’ll deal with that when we get to it.”
Narduzzi seemed to come to the same conclusion that Norvell did, that having the coordinators in place on game day is probably even more important than the head coach.
“Randy Bates does an incredible job on defense,” Narduzzi said. “He makes every call so if I went down, it’d be the easy part. If Bates went down or if Whipple went down is where you’d have a problem. They wouldn’t even miss me on game day anymore. We’ve got the thing running so smoothly right now that they wouldn’t even miss me.”
Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield was asked a similar question in his press conference this week.
So if Narduzzi is forced to miss a game, would that make assistant head coach and Charlie Partridge the next man up? Partridge has head coaching experience from his time at FAU and would certainly fit the bill.
Narduzzi doesn’t want to talk about his plans at this point, but the fact that they’ve been made is just another of the myriad ways football coaches have had to adjust to playing in a pandemic.