East Lansing — Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is expected to be announced as the next head coach at Pittsburgh soon after Christmas, sources familiar with the situation told The News.
First reported by SI.com, Narduzzi will become the fifth Pittsburgh head coach since 2010, replacing Paul Chryst, who left to take the Wisconsin job after three years leading the Panthers.
Nothing has been announced officially by either Michigan State or Pittsburgh and Narduzzi has not responded to messages left by The News. The deal is expected, the sources said, to be announced after Christmas, possibly as early as Friday.
Narduzzi was the 2013 Broyles Award winner as the top assistant in the country and has led the Spartans' defense to a top-10 ranking nationally in each of the past four seasons. He turned down the head coaching job at Connecticut last year and has interviewed for several other positions over the past couple of years.
Pittsburgh was also expected to interview Marshall head coach Doc Holliday, who was coaching his team in the Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday evening.
At Pittsburgh, Narduzzi lands at a Power Five conference school with a rich tradition and right in the middle of a part of the country Michigan State's assistant head coach is used to. A native of nearby Youngstown, Ohio, Narduzzi recruits the area heavily and will hit the ground running in trying to continue to build Pittsburgh's roster.
The Panthers joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013 and finished 6-6 overall and 4-4 in the Coastal Division. They will take on Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl on Jan. 2.
It fits exactly what Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said of his top assistant before the season.
"Pat wants to be a head football coach, he wants to be a head football coach at the BCS level, and I think he wants to do that at one of the major conferences," Dantonio said. "But it's got to be the right situation. And right now, from the standpoint of his salary, it's gonna have to be a BCS job."
His impending departure means some big questions must be answered at Michigan State, which last replaced a coordinator when Dan Roushar left the offensive side after the 2012 season to become running backs coach for the New Orleans Saints. He was replaced by then quarterbacks coach Dave Warner and former Ohio State assistant Jim Bollman.
The only change on the defensive staff since Dantonio took over in 2007 was before last season when Ron Burton came from Air Force to take over the defensive line from Ted Gill.
Whether Narduzzi will stick around to coach against Baylor in the Cotton Bowl remains to be seen, and the future of the Spartans staff will also be important. Who might go with Narduzzi to Pittsburgh and who remains with Michigan State will likely play out over the next few weeks.
The most pressing issue for Dantonio will be replacing Narduzzi. He has shown desire to promote from within and defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett and linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Mike Tressel would be at the top of the list. One could stay at Michigan State, freeing the other to go with Narduzzi, but Dantonio could also offer Barnett and Tressel co-coordinator jobs, similar to Warner and Bollman on offense.
He could also look outside the program, as he did hiring Burton, wide receivers coach Terrence Samuel and quarterbacks and former running backs coach Brad Salem.
On the field, the Spartans will not only be losing their coordinator, but there will be more holes to fill on defense as seniors Kurtis Drummond and Taiwan Jones graduate and juniors Trae Waynes and Shilique Calhoun could be headed for the NFL early.
They are all part of a defense that ranks No. 7 in the nation, the fourth straight season they've been in the top 10.