The Pitt football program was embarrassed on national television Saturday against Notre Dame and honestly, the entire 2020 season is headed down the road of shame as well, as a promising 3-0 start has turned into a 3-4 disaster.
Pat Narduzzi has had six seasons to put his mark on the program and to turn Pitt into more than an average football program and hasn’t done so. Someone needs to be held accountable for this program’s continued shortcomings.
Narduzzi has had more than enough time and in my opinion, his time has run out. Pitt should move on from Narduzzi and Heather Lyke needs to start looking for a new head coach following this season.
The bottom line is that for all his brash talk, Narduzzi hasn’t accomplished anything expect keeping the program average.
In six seasons, Narduzzi has a record of 39-33, which considering he’s not playing in the SEC or Big 10, that’s average or below. After starting out with back to back eight-win seasons, Narduzzi has followed that up with season win totals of five, seven, eight and this year, they sit with just three with slim prospects of too many more.
By all accounts, including from Narduzzi himself, this was his most talented team and they were expected to finish in the upper half of the ACC. With only three wins and a remaining schedule of Florida State, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Clemson, Pitt has a strong possibility of finishing the season with less than five wins. The last time that happened was in 1998 under Walt Harris (2-9).
But it goes beyond their final record this season and is more about the continual issues that fail to be corrected by this staff and his coaching abilities and overall judgement.
The current roster that Narduzzi has assembled are all the players that he’s recruited, so that can’t be used as an excuse. The bottom line is that either the players aren’t being developed properly, the staff isn’t evaluating players properly when recruiting or the scheme and system that is being run isn’t a winning one.
I’d make the case that all three of these are accurate and that falls on the lap of the head coach.
It’s tiring to hear from the head coach after a loss that “our players played their tails off.” That’s meaningless, they should be playing hard and shouldn’t be congratulated for giving an effort for 60 minutes.
What I want to hear from the head coach is game after game, why the team is still unable to run the ball, failing to score in the red zone, giving up big plays in the secondary, dropping passes, allowing too much penalty yardage, failing in games decided by a touchdown or less. Eighteen of Narduzzi’s 33 losses have been by seven points or less, which is a sign that he’s not making the proper in-game decisions and adjustments.
While I do believe Pitt’s overall recruiting has improved in the last couple of seasons, I aslo think that’s largely due to the additions of Charlie Partridge, Archie Collins and Chris Beatty not Narduzzi. The problem is that the winning hasn’t spiked despite the improvement in recruiting and that’s on coaching.
While he should get credit for the hiring of Partridge, Collins, Beatty and Cory Sanders, Narduzzi has once again whiffed on his choice of offensive coordinator. Following the departure of Matt Canada, Narduzzi made the mistake of hiring Shawn Watson and followed that up by bringing in Mark Whipple, which has been a complete disaster. The once-proud Pitt rushing attack is gone and is embarrassing to watch, they have a losing formula of operating in the red zone and the young talent they do have at wide receiver isn’t being used properly.
After what we’ve witnessed this season and in particular against Notre Dame, Mark Whipple should not be a member of the Pitt coaching staff for their next game against Florida State.
Because of the money remaining on his contract, the shaky financial times for all universities and the fact that it would mean the program is starting all over again, firing a head coach isn’t easy to do. But buyouts are generally paid for by fed-up donors and not from the university’s pocketbook.
Pitt has what looks to be a very talented incoming 2021 recruiting class and brought in some talented players last season. They would run the risk of a host of players de-committing or transferring if they fire the coaches that recruited or brought them in.
I realize those risks, but they’re not things that Lyke can worry about.
Under her leadership, the Pitt basketball programs appear on the upswing, the men’s soccer team is ranked No. 1 in the country, the women’s soccer team was also ranked this season, the volleyball was ranked No. 2 last season and is in the Top 10 again this season and the wrestling program is ranked nationally.
However, as we all know, the football program is the centerpiece of most athletic programs and that’s the case with Pitt.
Despite having six years to turn Pitt into something the fan base could be proud of and excited about, Narduzzi hasn’t been able to accomplish that. Considering what’s happening this season, the athletic department has no chance of selling the fan base on excitement and optimism for 2021. Donors to the program aren’t likely to open up their wallets and Narduzzi has alienated many alumni with his brash attitude, which is troubling.
Six years is enough for a coach to turn things around.
It’s time for Lyke to make her biggest move as Pitt athletic director and hire a new head football coach.
The Narduzzi Era should end after this season.