McAdoo Takes ‘Different Way’ to Coaching’s Top Tier
What makes Ben McAdoo ’00 stand out isn’t that he works in the NFL, or that he’s a head coach in the league. More than a dozen other IUP alumni have either played or coached in the pros. One of them, Jim Haslett ’91, was a head coach while McAdoo was studying health and physical education at IUP.
Ben McAdoo became the New York Giants’ head coach in January. New York Giants photograph
What makes McAdoo’s situation unusual is that he’s the first IUP alumnus to play or coach in the league without having played a down for his alma mater. Not that it seems to have hindered him much.
The 38-year-old McAdoo has coached in the NFL in some capacity for the past 12 years. He got the opportunity of a lifetime January 14, when the New York Giants promoted him to replace Tom Coughlin as the franchise’s next head coach. McAdoo served as the Giants’ offensive coordinator the previous two seasons, and before that, he spent time with the New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, and Green Bay Packers.
But for McAdoo, a future in the NFL may have seemed unlikely. The son of a coal miner, McAdoo played football at Homer-Center High School, and he figured that would be the extent of his career in the sport.
McAdoo was the first person in his family to attend college, and he took that seriously. He graduated from IUP summa cum laude and then earned a master’s degree in nine months from Michigan State.
“That was important,” he said in an interview with NFL.com. “I wasn’t sure I always wanted to do that, but I figured in the end that was probably the best way to get ahead.
“When I was done playing, I had a hard time finding things to replace the competition. I used academics to do that.”
Along the way, McAdoo also found that he missed football. As an undergraduate, he coached at the high school level, but he spent a year away from the sport while pursuing his master’s degree. That’s when he realized he longed to coach. Three years later, he got his start in the NFL.
“I realized all along I wanted to work in sports,” McAdoo said. “I just got there a little different way than most.”
Homer City native Ben McAdoo ’00, left, pictured with defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, was named head coach of the New York Giants in January. New York Giants photograph
In New York, McAdoo will have another IUP graduate with him on the sideline. In February, he announced the hiring of Frank Cignetti Jr. ’89 as quarterbacks coach. The Giants are Cignetti’s fifth NFL team since he broke into the league with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1999. A former college coach as well, Cignetti has spent eight seasons in the NFL in various offensive coaching roles.
In another off-season move, the Cincinnati Bengals hired Haslett in January as linebackers coach. Perhaps IUP’s most recognizable football alumnus, Haslett returned to the NFL after one season as a consultant for Penn State. An NFL coach for 21 years, he was the first IUP graduate to serve as a head coach, leading the Saints from 2000 to 2005. During his nine years as a player, Haslett appeared in 94 games and was named 1979 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
By IUP’s count, Haslett, Cignetti, and McAdoo are among at least 17 alumni who have either coached on the field or played in the NFL since 1970.
In that time, seven have been selected in the NFL Draft, starting with the Steelers’ selection of Dave Smith in 1970, followed by Lynn Hieber to the Bengals in ’76, and Haslett to the Buffalo Bills in the second round of the ’79 draft, which remains the highest selection for an IUP player. Next came offensive linemen Chris Villarrial in 1996 and Leander Jordan in 2000, followed by wide receiver LeRon McCoy in 2005 and defensive back Akwasi Owusu-Ansah in 2010. Kris Griffin, Jason Capizzi, John Jones, and Mike Jemison were also on NFL rosters after signing free agent contracts.
Others in the coaching circuit include Jim Hostler ’90, a tight ends coach for the Indianapolis Colts entering his 17th season as an NFL assistant; Bob Ligashesky ’85, most recently a special teams coach for the Houston Texans and now an assistant at the University of Illinois; Jack Henry ’69, an NFL offensive line coach through 14 seasons, whom McAdoo considers a mentor; and Tony Marciano ’78, an NFL assistant for eight seasons and current assistant head coach at the University of the Incarnate Word in Texas.
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