CHARLOTTE, N.C. – When it comes to college athletes earning money off their name, image and likeness, Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi wants a level playing field between the large and small schools.
“I think the most important thing is, if I had to – there’s got to be a lid on it, right? I think everybody wants to play under the same rules,” Narduzzi said Wednesday at ACC Kickoff at the Westin in Charlotte. “National Football League – they have a salary cap. I think you want to have some type of salary cap.”
He added: “It can’t be based on how big your university is, because we’ll start building more dorms and what are we doing? We have education that is a priority, and we’re not going to have classes full of thousands of kids. We’re going to have small class sizes and, again, we’re going to have small alumni groups as they matriculate through the University of Pittsburgh. I think there’s got to be a lid on the thing. There’s got to be some type of, if you are going to leave the portal open, there has to be a salary cap so people can’t just go overspend.”
Narduzzi has long been one of the few coaches willing to be unfiltered in his criticism of NIL, the transfer portal, and the problems that come when the two mix together in college football. NIL deals aren’t supposed to be used as incentives when coaches are recruiting players, but it’s absolutely happening. At the Athletic, reporter Bruce Feldman spoke with more than a dozen coaches about tampering, and Narduzzi was the only one to talk on-the-record about it.
When word spread last spring that Pitt’s Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver Jordan Addison was being sought after by USC, Narduzzi picked up the phone and called Trojans’ head coach Lincoln Riley. All of that became public through various reports. And still, it did nothing to dissuade Addison from leaving or Riley accepting the wideout, nor did it spark the NCAA to do anything about it.
“I think what will fix it, a little bit, is shortening the (transfer) windows down,” Narduzzi said. “So there aren’t these gigantic windows. Because what teams are doing – they’re hiring staffs to recruit the portal… (They’re) just watching video all day, while I’m coaching football on our team. They’re just recruiting your roster. They get plenty of time to do it. But if we shorten the windows down, they have less time.”
Former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, who is entering his first season as the head coach at UAB, took a page out of Narduzzi’s playbook back in June, when he said he would “call out” any coaches who tampered with his players.
“I did that already,” Narduzzi quipped. “I was the first. I didn’t have to talk about it. I just did it. It didn’t stop when I made those calls. I was brought up in an Italian family who just tells it like it is. So, I got no problem being honest… I’m not one of those guys that’s not going to make that phone call. That’s just my natural response. It’s like, ‘Okay, this is happening – communication.’”
East Carolina coach Mike Houston recently said that he reported an opposing program for tampering with one of his players this offseason. Houston said, according to WRAL: “He’s thriving, and you get people in your ears starting to mess with him. They start talking about money and that’s the stuff I don’t like.”
Earlier this offseason, Narduzzi – who is entering his ninth season as Pitt’s head coach – made headlines when publicly criticized new Colorado head coach Deion Sanders for using the transfer portal to turnover his roster. Reportedly, about 70 players left the Colorado program and about 35 new ones have come in.
“We try not to make a living in the portal,” Narduzzi said Wednesday. “I want to recruit high school football players… You go off of need, and if someone ends up leaving your program, you’re able to supplement it with an older guy.”
Pitt certainly accepts transfers; just take a look at the guy under-center. Phil Jurkovec played at Boston College last season.
But Jurkovec wasn’t enticed by an NIL deal to come to Pitt. At Boston College, he was already set in that department, inking a deal with Audi. For the quarterback – a Pine-Richland graduate – it’s a homecoming. Narduzzi joked that Jurkovec knows the roads in Pittsburgh better than he does.
Coming to Pitt also gives Jurkovec the opportunity to reunite with Frank Cignetti Jr., who was the offensive coordinator at Boston College when Jurkovec had one of his best seasons, throwing for 17 touchdowns in 10 games in 2020.
“It’s huge, and it had a lot to do with transferring. Being in the system for a couple of years, I know the offensive system that Coach Cignetti has, so I’m comfortable with it,” Jurkovec said. “I know the type of person he is. You can trust him. He is a really good coach. We’re looking forward to a great year.”
Still, the problems with the portal and NIL persist. And Narduzzi isn’t the only one highlighting the issues that occur when the two mix.
“The recent unprecedented transfers of student-athletes are tainted by inducements disguised as NIL money,” ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said Tuesday. “Too many student-athletes enter the transfer portal based on rumor or bad advice, only to find they have no place to go. It’s the ultimate game of musical chairs. This is detrimental to their education and future and must stop.”