ELON, N.C. – Curt Cignetti has been named the new Elon University head football coach, Director of Athletics Dave Blank announced on Saturday, Dec. 31. The assistant coach/recruiting coordinator on Nick Saban’s Alabama’s undefeated 2009 National Championship team, Cignetti has spent the last six seasons as the head coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, amassing a career record of 53-17.
Cignetti will be introduced to the Elon community and the media at a news conference at noon on Monday, Jan. 2, in the Walker Room of Elon’s Alumni Field House.
“We are thrilled to welcome Curt, his wife Manette, and their three children to the Elon family,” Blank said. “Throughout his life, Curt has been passionate about the game of football. He developed his coaching and recruiting skills under mentors Johnny Majors at Pittsburgh, Nick Saban at Alabama and Chuck Amato at North Carolina State. And his family has deep football roots, with his father, Frank Cignetti Sr., a member of the college football Hall of Fame, serving as a successful coach at West Virginia and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and his brother, Frank Cignetti Jr., coaching for several NFL and NCAA Division I teams.
We were hopeful that our search would result in someone with successful head coaching experience who possesses a strong commitment to the full experience of the student-athlete,” Blank said. “Curt’s tremendous success as a head coach and his background in coaching demonstrate everything we were looking for and I am excited about the leadership he will bring to Elon’s football program.”
In six seasons at IUP, Cignetti led the Crimson Hawks to a 53-17 (.757) record, including a 33-11 (.750) mark in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. In 2011, Cignetti inherited a team that finished 4-10 against conference foes two years prior to his arrival. IUP made three NCAA Division II Playoff appearances in 2012, 2015 and 2016 and finished this past season ranked No. 12 in the nation. Cignetti helped the Crimson Hawks to a 4-3 record in postseason play, as well. It marked the first time IUP made back-to-back NCAA Playoff appearances since 2002-03.
IUP finished the 2016 season ranked first in the nation in passing efficiency (183.44), third in scoring offense (46.3 points per game), fourth in rushing offense (279.8 rushing yards per game), and 12th in total offense (489.6 yards per game). The Crimson Hawks also ended the year first in the country in turnover margin (+2.08) and third in third down conversion percentage (.566). IUP racked up 50 or more points in a game four times in 2016, including a 62-point outburst in the first round of the NCAA Playoffs.
“I am excited about the great opportunity at Elon and humbled and honored to be chosen to lead the Phoenix football program,” Cignetti said. “I’d like to give special thanks to President Lambert, Provost House and Director of Athletics Dave Blank. I am looking forward to working daily to improve the program to its maximum potential and build a championship football program at Elon University.”
Cignetti was hired on Saban’s original staff at Alabama, helping the Crimson Tide to a national title in 2009 and back-to-back SEC West championships in 2008 and 2009 as the recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach. Alabama won 29 consecutive regular season games during Cignetti’s stint in Tuscaloosa. Cignetti brought in the consensus No. 1 recruiting class in the country in 2008, the first of three consecutive top-five recruiting classes.
In addition to the national title, Cignetti was part of Alabama teams that posted a record of 33-3 over three seasons, including a berth in the 2008 Sugar Bowl. Among his recruits was Mark Ingram, who won the 2008 Heisman Trophy, and Cignetti also coached Julio Jones, the Associated Press SEC Freshman of the Year and Columbus Touchdown Club National Freshman of the Year.
Cignetti joined the staff at Alabama after spending seven seasons (2000-06) as the recruiting coordinator at North Carolina State while also coaching tight ends from 2000-02 and 2005-06 and quarterbacks during the 2003 and 2004 campaigns. NC State qualified for five bowl games during that time, including the 2002 Gator Bowl, when the team set a school record with 11 victories. One of his last recruits before moving to Alabama was quarterback Russell Wilson, who played at NC State before moving on to Wisconsin as a senior. Following his record-setting collegiate career, Wilson was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks and led the team to a Super Bowl XLVIII victory.
Two of Cignetti’s recruiting classes at NC State ranked in the top 10 in the nation, and Rivals.com named him one of the top 25 recruiters in the nation in 2004. While working with the NC State 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 (1993-99) at the University of Pittsburgh. He also coached the Panthers’ 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 participant his first year. He coached quarterbacks and receivers at Davidson in 1985 and was the quarterbacks coach at Rice (1986-88) and Temple (1989-92).
Cignetti’s father, Frank Cignetti Sr., is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and won 199 games as a head coach at West Virginia and IUP. Cignetti’s brother, Frank Cignetti Jr., is currently the quarterbacks coach with the NFL’s New York Giants.
Cignetti was a quarterback at West Virginia, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1982. He is married to the former Manette Lawer and the couple has three children – Curtis John, Carly Ann and Natalie Elise.
The Curt Cignetti File
• Born: June 2, 1961 (age 55)
• Wife: Manette
• Children: Curtis John, Carly Ann and Natalie Elise
• Education: West Virginia University, 1982 (business administration)
• West Virginia (1979-82) – Quarterback
Assistant Coaching Experience
• Pittsburgh (1983-84) – Graduate Assistant
• Davidson (1985) – Quarterbacks/Wide Receivers
• Rice (1986-88) – Quarterbacks
• Temple (1989-92) – Quarterbacks
• Pittsburgh (1993-99) – Quarterbacks/Tight Ends
• NC State (2000-06) – Recruiting Coordinator/Quarterbacks/Tight Ends
• Alabama (2007-10) – Recruiting Coordinator/Wide Receivers
Head Coaching Experience
• Indiana University of Pennsylvania (2011-16)
– 2011: 7-3 (5-2)
– 2012: 12-2 (6-1)
– 2013: 9-2 (5-2)
– 2014: 6-5 (5-4)
– 2015: 9-3 (6-1)
– 2015: 10-2 (6-1)
• Overall Head Coach Record: 53-17 (33-11)