"A Great Day For Pitt''

Coach Dave Wannstedt described Wednesday as a great day for the Pitt football program, as he named Frank Cignetti Jr. the Panthers' new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and who could argue.

A Pittsburgh native, Frank Cignetti Jr. is knowledgeable about the Pitt football program's glorious history. He has some two decades at the NFL and collegiate levels calling plays and coaching quarterbacks, has experienced the Backyard Brawl from both sides and took a pay cut to leave the University of California for what amounts to a lateral move.

But according to Cignetti, returning to the Pitt coaching staff was his dream.

"If you just look at the base salary, of course,'' Cignetti said when asked about the pay differential, "but when you look at the cost of living ... that's when you have to make a decision. But there are so many things that are more important than money. You've got to decide how important is it to live back home?

"How important is it to have your wife and children around their grandparents, my wife's parents, (and) their cousins? To me, you can't put a price tag on that. (But) anybody who knows me knows that Pitt's my dream job. This is home. This is like hitting the lottery, not only personally, but professionally.

"(So), it can't get any better than this right here,'' Cignetti added. "Being part of the University of Pittsburgh again. Living in this great city again and working for a great man like Dave Wannstedt. ... We have very similar philosophies about running an offense, and I'm really looking forward to getting started.''

Cignetti reportedly was making in the neighborhood of $350,000 at Cal, but he noted that Pitt certainly was competitive with its salary offer. And he praised Pitt athletics director Steve Pederson and Wannstedt for their role in making Cignetti the Panthers' new offensive coordinator.

Wannstedt said he spoke with about a dozen candidates for Pitt's offensive coordinator job before he narrowed the search with Cignetti in the lead.

"The criteria we were looking for in the search for an offensive coordinator were,'' Wannstedt said. "No. 1, somebody who called plays before and had experience calling plays. No. 2, somebody who had an expertise in coaching and developing young quarterbacks.

"No. 3, somebody who had a similar (offensive) philosophy from the standpoint of being balanced, running the ball and the play-action pass. Also, somebody who had a passion for the University of Pittsburgh and the City of Pittsburgh. Someone who could go out and recruit players and sell our university and sell our football program.

"(And) when you look at his resume,'' Wannstedt added, "the programs and people he's been associated with, I think it's a great day for Pitt football and a great day for our program. And I'm very confident that the improvement we want to make in our program in all areas of our football team, we couldn't be hiring a better guy than to hire Frank Cignetti.''

Cignetti believes in coaching quarterbacks in the classroom, as well as on the field, and he will begin working with Pitt's signal-callers -- fifth-year senior Bill Stull, junior Pat Bostick and redshirt freshman Tino Sunseri -- immediately to get them ready for spring practice that begins March 19.

"I think you have a situation where you have three talented quarterbacks,'' Cignetti said. "Stull's the starting quarterback. Then, you have Bostick, and then you have Sunseri. ... There's a depth chart that's set.

"And it's going to be competitive. And, ultimately, the quarterback who can lead this offense and lead this team will be the starting quarterback. (And) going into spring ball, Stull is the starting quarterback.''

Cignetti, who was Cal coach Jeff Tedford's third offensive coordinator in three years, noted that it was no factor in his decision that Wannstedt primarily a defensive-minded coach and his former boss was offensive-minded. Cignetti apparently will have more autonomy on the Panthers' staff.

"Jeff Tedford has been awesome,'' Cignetti said. "You just don't leave the NFL to go to Cal Berkeley if you don't have a great head guy like Jeff Tedford. He made that happen, and working with him the past year was unbelievable. He's a great person and a great coach.''

Cignetti's wide and varied background had him working with offensive minds like Tedford, his father, Frank Cignetti Sr. and NFL veteran Mike McCarthy. Cignetti spent the 2008 season as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Cal. The Bears averaged nearly 33 points per game en route to a 9-4 record and win against Miami (Fla.) in the Emerald Bowl.

In 2007, Cignetti was the San Francisco 49ers' quarterbacks coach. Prior to his 49ers post, Cignetti was the offensive coordinator at North Carolina (2006) and Fresno State (2002-05). In 2004, Fresno State averaged 52.8 points over its final six games and became just the sixth team in NCAA history to score 50 or more points in four consecutive contests.

The Bulldogs twice finished among the nation's top 10 in scoring and third-down conversions during Cignetti's tenure. They were also a perennial post-season team, advancing to four consecutive bowls, including victories against Georgia Tech (2002, Silicon Valley), UCLA (2003, Silicon Valley) and Virginia (2004, MPC Computers).

From 2000-01, Cignetti served as quarterbacks coach with the New Orleans Saints, where he helped Jeff Blake to a career-best passer rating and also helped Aaron Brooks produce some of the best statistics in his career en route to a Pro Bowl alternate selection. Cignetti landed his first NFL appointment in 1999 as a quality control assistant with the Kansas City Chiefs.

From 1990-98, Cignetti was on his father's staff at IUP, where he was an all-conference safety before earning his bachelor's degree in 1988. He served IUP as receivers, secondary and quarterbacks coach before elevating to offensive coordinator for his final two seasons. During his tenure, IUP twice advanced to the NCAA Division II national title game and in the semifinals four times.

Cignetti additionally has served on the coaching staffs for the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine all-star games. His Pitt appointment marks a return to the place where he landed his first coaching position as a Panthers graduate assistant coach in 1989.

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