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‘I am excited to lead this program forward and change the culture, mindset, and expectation level of Hoosier football.’: Indiana football officially announces Curt Cignetti as head coach



Indiana football
Indiana football officially announces Curt Cignetti as head coach of the program after parting ways with Tom Allen earlier this week. (Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports)

Indiana football has officially announced the hiring of James Madison head coach Curt Cignetti and the new head of the Hoosiers.

Indiana Athletic Director Scott Dolson led a quick head coaching search that lasted just a week from the time it was officially announced that former Indiana football head coach Tom Allen had been fired, and it wrapped up on Thursday.

Cignetti led James Madison to a 52-9 record in his tenure as head coach and was named the 2023 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year.

The Indiana football program is coming off of a 3-9 season and a 9-27 record over the last three years. In that span, Indiana football has gone just 3-24 in Big Ten games.

Below is the full Indiana football release.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana University Vice President and Director of Athletics Scott Dolson named Curt Cignetti the 30th head football coach in program history.

Cignetti posted an 11-1 record in 2023, his fifth season as James Madison head coach. He had an overall mark of 52-9 (.853), including a 19-4 run over 2022 and 2023, JMU’s first two years as an FBS program.

“I am very excited to welcome Curt Cignetti as the head football coach at Indiana University,” Dolson said. “We had a very talented and deep pool of candidates, and Curt stood out thanks to an incredible track record of success over more than four decades in college football. As a head coach he’s succeeded everywhere he’s been, and as an assistant he has been a part of championship cultures while working alongside some of the game’s best coaches. I appreciate the tremendous support throughout this process of Chair Quinn Buckner and the IU Board of Trustees and President Pam Whitten, all of whom were critical in making this day a reality.”

Cignetti, the 2023 Sun Belt Coach of the Year, has worked his way up the coaching ranks during a 41-year career, highlighted by a 119-35 (.773) record in 13 seasons as a head coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (2011-16), Elon (2017-18), and James Madison (2019-23). His teams reached the postseason on nine occasions and finished in the Top 25 nine times.

“I am excited to lead this program forward and change the culture, mindset, and expectation level of Hoosier football,” Cignetti said. “I want to thank Director of Athletics Scott Dolson and President Pam Whitten, and I look forward to working with both in building something special at IU. Both share my vision and belief that big things are ahead for the IU program.”

James Madison went 31-4 (.886) in conference play between the Sun Belt Conference (2022-23) and the Colonial Athletic Association (2019-21). The Dukes clinched three-consecutive CAA championships and playoff appearances, a berth in the 2019 FCS national championship game, and FCS semifinal appearances in 2020 and 2021.

Cignetti became the first coach to lead his team into the Top 25 during a program’s first year of transition from FCS to FBS. In 2023, JMU clinched the school’s first bowl bid, back-to-back Sun Belt East titles, and a Top-25 ranking for six-straight weeks.

A 2019 Eddie Robinson Award finalist, Cignetti mentored 27 Dukes to All-America status. At the conference level, he tutored one Player of the Year, three Offensive Players of the Year, two Defensive Players of the Year, and one Special Teams Player of the Year.

James Madison totaled 72 all-conference honorees, including 2023 Sun Belt Player of the Year quarterback Jordan McCloud and 2023 Defensive Player of the Year defensive lineman Jalen Green. Additionally, 17 Dukes carded spots on the All-Sun Belt team.

JMU went 8-3 overall with a 6-2 mark in conference play to finish tied for first in the Sun Belt East Division in 2022. The Dukes opened with a 5-0 record, earning its Top-25 nod for the first time. Wide receiver Kris Thornton and defensive lineman Isaac Ukwu collected honorable mention All-America recognition.

Cignetti led James Madison to a 14-2 record and the national title appearance in his first campaign in Harrisonburg in 2019. JMU reeled off 14 consecutive wins, went 8-0 in league play, and notched eight nationally-ranked wins, with three inside the Top 10.

A total of 10 players secured All-America status, including Ron’Dell Carter who was runner-up for the Buck Buchanan Award (most outstanding defensive player in FCS).

The Dukes went 7-1 and reached the FCS semifinals in 2020, and finished 12-2 with a conference championship and semifinal appearance in their final FCS season in 2021. James Madison produced 10 All-Americans for the second time in three years and 14 all-conference honorees.

Cole Johnson took fourth in the Walter Payton Award voting after throwing for JMU records in passing yardage (3,779) and passing touchdowns (41), while Ethan Ratke broke NCAA all-division records for career field goals (101) and scoring by a kicker (542) after making a school-best 29 kicks in 2021.

Prior to his stint at James Madison, Cignetti amassed a 14-9 record in two years at Elon, a program that went 12-45 in the previous five campaigns. The Phoenix qualified for the FCS Playoffs in both seasons, just the second and third playoff berths in program history (2009).

Cignetti led Elon to a six-win improvement in 2017, going 8-4 and finishing second in the CAA at 6-2. He was named Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year as the Phoenix reached the postseason and finished 20th in the national rankings.

Elon secured a second-straight playoff appearance in 2018, with the ninth-ranked Phoenix knocking off No. 2 James Madison for the program’s first-ever win over an FCS Top-5 opponent. The victory also snapped the Dukes’ 22-game conference winning streak.

Cignetti’s inaugural head-coaching opportunity came at IUP, where his father, Frank Cignetti Sr., patrolled the sidelines for 20 years. He went 53-17 with three playoff appearances and four Top 25s in six campaigns.

The Crimson Hawks touted a 33-11 ledger in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference after a 4-10 two-year stretch prior to his arrival. Cignetti was 4-3 in the playoffs and had a final ranking as high as 12th (2016).

Cignetti’s 27-year tenure as an FBS assistant coach featured a spot on Nick Saban’s first coaching staff at Alabama. He served as wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator (2007-10).

The Crimson Tide went 12-2 in 2008, the same year Cignetti helped corral the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class. Alabama followed with an undefeated national championship season in 2009, and a 10-win campaign in 2010.

He joined the Crimson Tide after a seven-year stint as recruiting coordinator (2000-06), tight ends coach (2000-02), and quarterbacks coach (2003-04) at North Carolina State. The Wolfpack reached five bowl games, including the 2002 Gator Bowl squad that set a program record with 11 victories.

His first run as a recruiting coordinator came at Pitt from (1993-99), where he also coached tight ends and quarterbacks at various times under College Football Hall of Fame head coach Johnny Majors.

Cignetti started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Pitt (1983-84) and was part of its Fiesta Bowl team his first year. He mentored quarterbacks and receivers at Davidson in 1985, and he oversaw the quarterbacks at Rice (1986-88) and Temple (1989-92).

Cignetti graduated from West Virginia in 1982, where he lettered as a quarterback and earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration.

He is married to the former Manette Lawer. Curt and Manette have three children: Curtis John, Carly Ann, and Natalie Elise, who was an honorable mention All-American in volleyball at IUP.

His father, Frank, is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame after playing at IUP and compiling a coaching record of 199-77-1 at West Virginia (1976-79) and IUP (1986-2005). The field at IUP is named in his honor (Frank Cignetti Field @ George P. Miller Stadium).

Saban coached under Frank before later employing Curt. Curt’s younger brother, Frank Jr., is a veteran college and NFL coach.

James Madison University
2019-23: Head Coach

Elon University
2017-18: Head Coach

Indiana University of Pennsylvania
2011-16: Head Coach

University of Alabama
2007-10: Recruiting Coordinator/Wide Receivers

North Carolina State University
2000-06: Recruiting Coordinator/Quarterbacks/Tight Ends

University of Pittsburgh
1993-99: Quarterbacks/Tight Ends

Temple University
1989-92: Quarterbacks

Rice University
1986-88: Quarterbacks

Davidson College
1985: Quarterbacks/Wide Receivers

University of Pittsburgh
1983-84: Graduate Assistant

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Kyler Staley is a Basketball Recruiting Analyst for Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Kyler has been in the basketball recruiting industry since 2019 and is a credentialed media member. He has covered Indiana since 2021 while continuing to also work for Prep Hoops Indiana. He has previously worked for Rivals.