Narduzzi’s bark needs less bite

The ACC reprimanded Pat Narduzzi after comments he made about officials after the VT game last Thursday. Theo Schwarz | Senior Staff Photographer

If Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi isn’t careful, his self-described “Rottweiler” attitude on the sidelines could do more than dent the University’s wallets –– it could cost his team a game.

Narduzzi’s comments criticizing officials after Pitt’s 39-36 loss to the No. 25 Virginia Tech Hokies last Thursday night drew a public reprimand from the ACC and a $5,000 fine to the University.

“I thought there were some things that were one-sided out there tonight that really irked me,” Narduzzi said at his postgame press conference Thursday night. “[Their receivers] did a great job pushing off all night.”

Despite the institutional fine handed down on Pitt by the ACC, Narduzzi didn’t back off from his comments Monday at his weekly press conference –– he doubled down instead.

“You have a 6-foot-7, 250-pound wideout pushing off, making plays,” Narduzzi said about Virginia Tech wide receiver Bucky Hodges, one of three VT wide receivers to torch the Panthers’ secondary for more than 100 yards in the game.

The hotheaded coach also admitted he thinks there is a right balance between being too emotional and showing no emotion at all, likening himself to a dog.

“The Rottweiler and the soft puppy, yes, there’s a balance,” Narduzzi said. “I don’t want to be the Rottweiler all the time. I want to be the in-between puppy that will go catch a frisbee once in a while. When somebody says sit, I’ll sit.”

Narduzzi’s refusal to accept the officiating in Thursday night’s game and move on is concerning. But it’s his unwillingness to temper himself on the field during games that could come back to hurt the Panthers down the road.

There’s nothing wrong with coaches showing emotion on the sideline –– as long as they know when it’s time to tone down. For Narduzzi, that time was at the end of the game against VT, when officials had just given the Hokies a first down on an extremely close third-and-short running play that effectively decided the game.

Narduzzi believed the runner had been stopped short of the first down, which would have brought up a fourth-down play and likely forced VT to punt, thus giving Pitt the ball back and a chance to tie or win the game.

But rather than simply asking the officials to review the play, Narduzzi berated them from the sidelines by yelling and wildly gesturing — to the point that one of his assistants had to hold him back — until they decided to review it.

Yes, it was a close play and one that deserved a second look. And even if it wasn’t, it was still such a crucial moment in deciding the game that Narduzzi was right to ask for a review.

But doing so while verbally admonishing the referees –– the ones who have the final say on the ruling on the field –– isn’t going to help Narduzzi’s chances of getting the call overturned. Worse yet, he was dangerously close to drawing a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, which would have given the Hokies a free first down even if the officials overturned the call on the field.

Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher –– who received a public reprimand from the ACC the same day as Narduzzi and drew a $20,000 institutional fine for Florida State –– did cross the line in his team’s 37-34 loss to Clemson, drawing a 15-yard penalty when he refused to stop yelling at the officials over what he perceived as a blown call.

The Seminoles ended up punting on the drive, and Clemson came back to win.

Of course, there are several key plays over the course of a football game that decide the outcome, and one 15-yard penalty isn’t going to directly affect the result. But coaches should be focusing only on how they can help the team win –– anything they do to contribute to the team losing is a serious cause for concern.

Narduzzi said he knows he should temper his emotions a little bit, but didn’t offer much hope for a more patient future.

“I like to be emotional on the sideline. I know I don’t need to get out of control, but sometimes you do. It’s part of the game,” Narduzzi said. “That’s not who I would like to be … sometimes in the heat of a game, you’re going to be uptight and upset with different situations, whatever it is.”

Narduzzi hasn’t directly cost his team a loss yet, but if he doesn’t start channeling more of his inner soft puppy, he and the Panthers may find themselves in the dog house.

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