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For the Love of the Game: Frank Cignetti Jr. Honors Father With Coaching Performance Saturday



Frank Cignetti Sr.

To say that football is just a game would be unfair to so, so many young kids who use it as an escape, to the father and his sons who build life bonds together through a shared love of the sport and the bonds made that can transcend virtually any obstacle.

The Cignetti family has lived and breathed football for a long, long, long time, and Frank Cignetti Sr. passed his love of the sport, his passion for teaching and educating young men, down to his children Curt and Frank Jr.

Curt played for his father Frank Sr. at West Virginia — following a stint in Pittsburgh where Frank Jr. was born — while Frank Jr. watched as a kid. Frank Jr. never played for his father, but he did spend nearly a decade as his assistant at Indiana University (Pa.) — their shared alma mater.

Despite the stops along the way, stops all over as assistants, coordinators and head coaches, Frank Jr. proudly proclaimed the Cignetti family as Pitt fans through and through before the Backyard Brawl.

“Hey, we’re Pitt Panther fans, let’s make no mistake,” Frank Cignetti Jr. said before the Backyard Brawl. “Our family heritage is from Western Pennsylvania; we had a little stop in Morgantown that didn’t end very well and make no mistake — we are Pitt Panthers.”

Unfortunately, however, Frank Sr. passed away at the age of 84 Saturday morning.

The James Madison Football Twitter account, where Curt is now the head coach, tweeted the news early Saturday, and Frank Jr. and Curt both confirmed the news a short while later. It was an emotional day for entire Cignetti family in attendance at Acrisure Stadium Saturday, and Pat Narduzzi led his post-game Tennessee media session with Frank Sr.’s passing.

“To start off with Frank Cignetti Sr., his passing this morning around 11:00,” Narduzzi said. “Right before we were going into a team meeting and pre-game meal, (Frank Jr.) found out. When you think about sacrifice, this is a game of football, and there’s so many other games in life and the sacrifice that he made sitting here. There was no doubt that he was going to coach the game. It’s a major sacrifice.

“It’s a game of football and a game of life, but our prayers go to their family. Just a sad, sad deal.”

Frank Jr. coached Pitt to a tough 34-27 loss against Tennessee Saturday, and considering the handicap of Kedon Slovis exiting at halftime and Nick Patti picking up an injury during his time in the game, he called a very solid game. It was an inspired effort, even if Pitt wasn’t able to bring home a win.

Narduzzi said that while Frank Jr. will likely address the media at some point over the next week, Frank Jr. was halfway home from the Backyard Brawl last Thursday night when he got a phone call to head to the hospital to see Frank Sr. Narduzzi said that his heart and prayers go out to the Cignetti family.

“Again, the sacrifices that the coaches make, and these players make,” Narduzzi said, visibly emotional discussing the impact of Frank Sr. 

For the Cignetti family, it was a tough day. Both Curt and Frank Jr. coached their respective teams, and for a pair of brothers who had their love of football instilled into them by their father, there perhaps couldn’t have been a more fitting tribute to the man who helped his son’s football dreams come true.

The wins and losses are often the end all, be all of debates in the college football world, but Curt, Frank Jr. and the Cignetti family went through an awful lot Saturday, and if nothing, made their father proud on the football field one more time. Football is a game, but it’s a game that brings people together.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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1 year ago

My condolences to the Cignetti family.

It’s Narduzzi’s responsibility to make the tough decisions. He should have taken the OC’s responsibilities and given them to the next man up. Being at the game Saturday, I predicted too many play calls. If I did so did Tennessee. The game was called on autopilot. 1st down, Abanakanda over Carter Warren. Works if Tennessee doesn’t have 3 players stuffing the run. Screen passes, none. Help for Warren with the right side linebacker rushing on pass plays, none. The QB’s absorbed too many blindside hits.

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