Curt Cignetti, a twenty-eight-year veteran assistant coach, most recently at the University of Alabama, has been appointed the eleventh head coach in the modern era of IUP football, Frank Condino, director of athletics, announced Friday, January 21, 2011.
Forty-nine-year-old Cignetti was formally introduced as head coach at a press conference at Memorial Field House. He is the eldest son of former head coach Frank Cignetti, who retired following the 2005 season.
“We are very pleased and excited to have someone of Curt’s caliber leading our football program,” Condino said. “He is not only an exceptional coach but an outstanding recruiter. I believe Curt has the ability to restore the competitiveness of our football program on the regional and national level.”
Cignetti spent the past four seasons as wide-receivers coach and recruiting coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama and helped the Crimson Tide win the 2009 BCS national championship with a 14-0 record. He brought in the consensus No. 1 recruiting class in the country in 2008, the first of three straight classes that finished in the top five nationally.
In addition to the national title, Cignetti was part of Alabama teams that posted a record of 33-3 over the past three regular seasons (including twenty-nine consecutive regular season victories), won the 2008 and 2009 SEC West championship, and earned a berth in the 2008 Sugar Bowl.
Among his recruits was Mark Ingram, who won the 2008 Heisman Trophy, and Cignetti coached Julio Jones, the Associated Press SEC Freshman of the Year and Columbus Touchdown Club National Freshman of the Year the same season. Prior to Jones, Cignetti worked with D.J. Hall, who set Crimson Tide single-season records for catches and receiving yards before those marks were broken by Jones last year.
Based on the strength of his accomplishments in the recruiting battles and the successes his players had on the field, Cignetti was honored as one of four finalists for the 2010 FootballScoop Wide Receivers Coach of the Year.
Cignetti joined the staff at Alabama after spending seven seasons (2000–2006) as the recruiting coordinator at North Carolina State while also coaching tight ends from 2000–2002 and 2005–2006 and quarterbacks during the 2003 and 2004 campaigns. The Wolfpack qualified for five bowl games during that time, including the 2002 Gator Bowl when N.C. State set a school record with eleven wins.
Two of his recruiting classes ranked in the top ten in the nation, and Rivals.com named him one of the top twenty-five recruiters in the nation in 2004. While working with the Wolfpack quarterbacks, Cignetti had the opportunity to coach 2003 ACC Player of the Year Philip Rivers and help prepare him to become the fourth pick in the NFL draft the following spring.
Cignetti first served as a recruiting coordinator during a seven-year stint (1993–1999) at the University of Pittsburgh and was chosen one of the top ten recruiting coordinators in the country by Tom Lemming in 1995. Cignetti also coached the Panther tight ends and quarterbacks at various times under College Football Hall of Fame head coach Johnny Majors.
Cignetti began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Pitt during the 1983 and 1984 seasons and was part of the team’s Fiesta Bowl participation his first year. He coached quarterbacks and receivers at Davidson in 1985 and was the quarterbacks coach at Rice (1986–1988) and Temple (1989–1992).
“I have known Curt since his undergraduate days as a student-athlete at West Virginia, and I want to emphasize the word student,” Condino said. “He received several awards highlighting his achievements in the classroom while a member of the football team. I have followed his coaching career closely and am not surprised at all the success he has enjoyed.”
Cignetti earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from West Virginia in 1982 and was a quarterback on the Mountaineer football team. He was awarded the Louis D. Meisel Award for Academics and the A.C. “Whitey” Gwynn Award, given to a student-athlete on the football team whose spirit and character contributed to the team’s success.
Cignetti is married to the former Manette Lawer and the couple has three children: Curtis, Carly, and Natalie.
Find more information on the IUP Athletics website.