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Indiana football: The case for Curt Cignetti

Breaking down a Hoosiers coaching candidate.

2021 NCAA Division I FCS Football Championship - Quarterfinals - North Dakota v James Madison Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Curt Cignetti is perhaps the most interesting candidate floated for the Indiana football job.

He’s won in some capacity just about everywhere he’s been from an assistant role at Alabama to head coaching roles at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Elon and James Madison.

Elon was among the toughest places to win in the FCS prior to Cignetti’s arrival. He turned the program into a playoff team in both of his first two years in 2017 and 2018. Elon hadn’t previously made the FCS playoffs since 2009 and never before that.

James Madison was heralded as one of the best programs in FCS under Cignetti’s watch. He’s made the jump to FBS without looking back, dominating the Sun Belt this year.

Let’s get into it.


The Upside

Indiana wanted a proven track record of head coaching experience and Cignetti has plenty of that.

He’s been a head coach since 2011 and moved up from Division-II IUP to Elon and then James Madison. Each program has been a winning one under his direction, with James Madison being the class of the FCS and, as previously mentioned, now the Sun Belt.

He’s succeeded at a tough place to win before. Indiana has that reputation only with the financial backing of the richest conference in the history of collegiate athletics.

Every program he’s coached has turned around. He took 4-10 IUP to 7-3 and an Elon program with six straight losing records to two consecutive FCS playoff berths.

He was hired onto Nick Saban’s first Alabama coaching staff in 2007 as wide receivers coach and worked with the Tide’s Julio Jones. Cignetti was there for Saban’s first national title with the Crimson Tide.

If Indiana was in fact looking for experience, Cignetti checks that box off and then some.

The Downside

Cignetti hasn’t held a power five job since that stint at Alabama. Which isnt necessarily a bad thing given that programs kept hiring him as a head coach.

Some may point to his age of 62, but we heard that before Indiana’s men’s basketball program hired its head coach and he’s done a swell job so far. I wouldn’t worry about that, honestly.

Trying to find a legitimate downside here and I’ve got nothing. I’m sure there’s something but the resume speaks for itself.