Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Dantonio makes play for his staff


Coach focuses on salaries, family time

By Bill Koch
Enquirer staff writer

Before Mark Dantonio accepted the job as the University of Cincinnati's head football coach, he sought assurances from the administration that the school would make the financial commitment required to stop the exodus of assistant coaches that had plagued the program under Rick Minter.

"We were just trying to make it equitable to other Big East programs," Dantonio said.

[img]
UC head football coach Mark Dantonio works with his team at Nippert Stadium.
(Enquirer photo/JEFF SWINGER)
Dantonio knew about UC's reputation as a program that had become a revolving door for assistant coaches. He didn't know the exact numbers - 55 assistants in 10 years under Minter - but he understood that the trend had to stop if the school was ever going to build a consistently successful program.

"Continuity is so important," Dantonio said. "Coaching is about teaching. Obviously, you're going to learn better if you hear it the same way over and over and over. The coach-player relationship, that has to be established over a period of time. And in recruiting, you want to have the same guy recruiting the same area so there's trust there with the high school coaches."

Dantonio received the financial commitment he was seeking. UC did agree to increase the salaries of assistant coaches, but it wasn't as if assistants were being paid a pittance during the Minter regime.

This year's offensive coordinator is making $130,000, compared with $125,000 last year. The defensive coordinator makes $128,100. Last year, the Bearcats used co-defensive coordinators who were paid $90,000 each.

Overall, UC paid nine assistant coaches $792,000 in 2003. This year, that figure is $894,800, a 12.9 percent increase.

But money alone won't keep qualified assistant coaches for the long haul.

"In coaching, it's not all about the money," said defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. "But if the money's good and you're working with good people, you've got to go where it is."

Narduzzi left Miami for UC after one year as the RedHawks' defensive coordinator, even though he said he was happy working under Miami coach Terry Hoeppner. His unit finished 24th nationally in total defense last season.

"I left Miami after a great year because I felt like it was a step up going to the Big East," Narduzzi said. "Coach Dantonio is a great person, and nobody is going to want to leave when you're working in a good situation and you're treated right.

"I'll give you an example. I probably wasn't here a month and a half and my son's having Donuts for Dad up in Oxford. I said, 'Coach, do you mind if I go to that? It's in the morning at 9 o'clock.' He says, 'He needs you more than I do. You're his role model.' That's important."

Don Treadwell, UC's new offensive coordinator, said he accepted the UC job after a year at Ball State because he wanted to work for Dantonio, with whom he coached as an assistant at Youngstown State and Michigan State. Treadwell coached at UC under Minter for one season in 1994 as the receivers coach before leaving to take a job at Stanford as the running backs coach.

"Without question, the head man makes the biggest impact on the reasons to join a program," Treadwell said. "Mark and I have so much history. I know him so well it made it an easy decision. You've got a man with a lot of the same values that he and I have grown up with. I've been in the foxhole with him as an assistant. I've seen him grow and develop."

Both coaches say they're committed to UC for the long haul. If they and the other assistants actually do stay, Dantonio will be able to infuse the program with a continuity that has been lacking for years.

"This is a great place to live," Dantonio said. "I think it's a community they could put roots in."

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E-mail bkoch@enquirer.com




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