The search for the next UConn football coach is in full swing, just as athletic director Warde Manuel said when he met with the media before UConn’s win over Memphis on Saturday.
The interviews, according to a source, are expected to take place in Atlanta, the home base of Parker Executive Search Firm, the firm UConn has hired to assist in the process. On Sunday night came word that UConn had asked Michigan State for permission to speak with Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. Then on Monday, a source said Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson, rumored to be a candidate, is off the list. Clawson has interviewed at Wake Forest and reportedly is strongly being considered for that job, in which Narduzzi and Ball State coach Pete Lembo also are candidates. Lembo, according to coachingsearch.com, was meeting with Manuel in Atlanta on Monday.
Dantonio spoke about Narduzzi when addressing the media about Michigan State’s trip to the Rose Bowl.
“Pat is a very focused individual,” Dantonio said. “I think he will be a tremendous head coaching candidate. He’ll make a tremendous head coach.”
Other candidates believed to be on the list to become the 29th coach at UConn include Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, Towson coach Rob Ambrose and UConn interim coach T.J. Weist.
Lembo, a New York native, has done an outstanding job at Ball State, which is 10-2 this season and 17-7 overall in Lembo’s time in Muncie. The Cardinals had the ninth-best passing attack in the country this year at 333.1 yards a game and were 13th in scoring at 40.1 a game.
The Spartans’ trip the Rose Bowl was cemented by the defense in a 34-24 win over No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game Saturday. The Michigan State win knocked Ohio State out of the BCS National Championship Game.
Narduzzi, 47, a former player (1987-89) and defensive coordinator (1998-1999) at Rhode Island, was named last week as a finalist for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation’s top assistant coach.
“I know he is extremely happy here,” Dantonio said of Narduzzi, who also is assistant head coach. “I know the players love him and he loves the players. I would hate to lose Pat Narduzzi. But when the opportunity comes and the opportunity is so good you need to take it, then that’s when you take it. But it’s got to be the right opportunity, and Pat understands that. I think he will be an outstanding head football coach.”
Manuel has said UConn can pay at the level needed to attract a quality coach.
Narduzzi’s contract, signed March 13 and obtained by MLive.com, calls for him to make $512,500 annually and receive an annual retention bonus equivalent to one month’s pay ($42,708) if he remains defensive coordinator through June 1 of each year.
Paul Pasqualoni, fired as coach of UConn after an 0-4 start, signed a five-year, $8.5 million contract in 2011 and received a $750,000 buyout.
Narduzzi, who was born in New Haven when his father Bill was a Yale assistant, became defensive coordinator at Miami of Ohio in 2003. Dantonio brought him along to Cincinnati in 2004-2006, and Narduzzi was a finalist for the head coach job at Cincinnati when Dantonio went to Michigan State. Brian Kelly, now at Notre Dame, got the Cincinnati job. Narduzzi joined Dantonio at Michigan State in 2007 and has been with him since.
Michigan State is No. 1 in total defense (248.2 yards a game), No.1 against the run (80.8) and fourth in scoring defense (12.7).
Michigan State came into the 2013 season as one of five FBS schools (Alabama, Florida State, Florida and LSU) to rank among the Top 10 nationally in total defense the previous two seasons. Also, MSU and Alabama were the only programs in 2011 and 2012 to rank in the Top 15 in total defense, rushing defense, passing defense and scoring defense.
Narduzzi was a three-year starting linebacker at Rhode Island from 1987-89. Before attending URI, he played one season at Youngstown State. A Youngstown, Ohio, native, Narduzzi earned all-state football honors at Ursuline High School. He has a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Rhode Island in 1990 and a master’s degree in sports psychology from Miami-Ohio in 1992.
Cochran Player Of Week
UConn quarterback Casey Cochran, who threw for a school-record 461 yards with four touchdowns in the Huskies’ 45-10 win against Memphis, was named the American Athletic Conference offensive player of the week. Chad Christen (46-yard field goal, 6 of 6 on extra points) was special teams player of the week. Geremy Davis (school-record 15 receptions, 207 yards, TD) made the honor roll.
By Desmond Conner, Hartford Courant.