Alabama adding assistant coaches for the 2017 football season has lacked drama, but not high expectations. The second of three openings has been filled and was announced Monday.
Joe Pannunzio is returning to Alabama, where he was formerly an administrator, to return to the football field as coach of the Crimson Tide’s tight ends and serving as special teams coordinator.
“I am very pleased that we were able to bring Joe back to our staff,” Saban said. “He does an excellent job coaching special teams and tight ends, a role I know he truly enjoys. He is a great fit in our organization and I think our players will respond well to his positive attitude and energy. We are excited to welcome Joe and his wife Rita back to The University of Alabama.”
The hiring of Punnunzio to coach the tight ends and special teams allows co-offensive coordinator Michael Locksley to handle the wide receivers, Burton Burns to turn his focus once again to only the Tide running backs and Brent Key will coach all aspects of the offensive line.
Pannunzio, who brings over 30 years of coaching experience to Tuscaloosa, returns to the Alabama program after spending the past two seasons as the Philadelphia Eagles director of personnel operations. He served as the Crimson Tide’s director of football operations for four seasons from 2011-14.
“I am excited to have the chance to return to The University of Alabama and once again work for Coach Saban,” Pannunzio said. “I have always loved working with the special teams and tight ends and the chance to do it for the best coach and the best program in college football is a very special opportunity. My family and I love Tuscaloosa, and I can’t wait to get back out on the field coaching.”
Prior to joining Alabama, Pannunzio was the tight ends coach/special teams coordinator at the University of Miami (Fla.) from 2006-10. During his tenure at UM, Pannunzio tutored players such as Greg Olsen (1st rd, Chicago, 2007), Jimmy Graham (3rd rd, New Orleans, 2010), Dedrick Epps (7th rd, San Diego, 2010) and punter Matt Bosher (6th rd, Atlanta, 2011). Miami made four bowl appearances in his five years in Coral Gables.
Pannunzio spent six years as the head coach at Murray State from 2000-05, leading the Racers to the 2002 Ohio Valley Championship and a berth in the NCAA I-AA playoffs. He joined Mike Gottfried, Frank Beamer and Houston Nutt as one of just four head coaches in school history to win a conference title.
Prior to becoming a head coach, Pannunzio spent five years working for Tommy Tuberville at Mississippi (1995-98) and Auburn (1999) as the tight ends and special teams coach. He also served in the same capacity for four years under Jim Wacker at TCU (1991) and Minnesota (1992-94).
In his second stint with Mesa (Colo.) College from 1987-90, Pannunzio worked as the offensive coordinator. He originally joined Mesa from 1982-84, when he coached the quarterbacks and wide receivers. Between those two stints at Mesa, Pannunzio was the tight ends coach at Kansas (1985-86).
A native of Pueblo, Colo., Pannunzio was a standout quarterback at Southern Colorado, earning honorable mention all-conference and in 1980. He also began his coaching career at his alma mater, working with wide receivers in 1981. He and his wife, Rita, have two daughters, Angela Brown and Nico Segura and a son, Mario. They have one grandson, Michael Jo Brown and son-in-laws Michael Brown and Jason Segura.