New Indiana football coach Curt Cignetti was only hired three weeks ago, but in his short time in charge, Cignetti has already put his stamp on the program.
With such a short time between his hiring and National Signing Day, it was going to be a challenge to build a roster and Cignetti has done everything possible to meet the challenge.
“It’s been a whirlwind really. I would call this 20 days of fourth and one,” Cignetti said about his first weeks in Bloomington during his National Signing Day press conference. “I’m living in a university house a couple blocks from town. I have not seen town during the daylight yet. I leave in the dark. I get home in the dark. It’s been a lot of 4:30, 5:00 a.m. mornings till 10:30, 11:30 at night. Was even in the office 12:30 one night. Haven’t done that since 1986.
Cignetti, who has a career record of 119-35 as a head coach, knew rebuilding Indiana football would be a challenge but it is one he is ready for. Every time he converts a ‘fourth and one’, it is another step on the right path for a program that had lost its direction over the last few years.
After successful 2019 and 2020 seasons, Indiana football lost its momentum from 2021-2023, which led to the firing of former coach Tom Allen.
Cignetti is not only looking to rebuild the program, but he is looking to create momentum and find sustained success for a program that has not been able to do that.
“I’ll tell you what, we got some momentum going, and we have a lot of people to buy in,” Cignetti said about his first few weeks with the program. “Look, the administration here, they want football to win. So I probably have some things that the other coaches didn’t, and they got a guy that knows what they’re doing.”
The administration believes in Cignetti and has put the resources behind him to help ensure he is successful. Cignetti’s dedication and commitment to the program have been reflected in the early wins or ‘fourth and one’ conversions that have come thus far.
“I think we got a lot done. We started building some momentum about seven, eight days ago, and that momentum has continued to build,” Cignetti said about his start with the program. “I’m never pleased, but I want to compliment the staff, everybody involved in the recruiting process inside the building, at the university, for their effort.”
Cignetti has never lacked confidence and that is not going to change anytime soon. His first interaction with the fans emphasized the unwavering belief he has in himself and the program he is trying to rebuild.
— Drew Rosenberg (@drew_rosenberg2) December 2, 2023
While Cignetti can certainly ‘talk the talk’ he is starting to show he can ‘walk the walk’ as well. In his short time with Indiana football, he has had some major wins.
Cignetti was able to hold off powerhouses like Michigan, Penn State and others to keep talented wide receiver Donaven McCulley in Bloomington.
He also has rebuilt the quarterback room. After losing 2023 starter Brendan Sorsby, Cignetti brought in Ohio transfer and 2022 MAC Offensive Player of the Year Kurtis Rourke, four-star Tyler Cherry from Greenwood, IN and three-star Alberto Mendoza who was previously committed to James Madison.
Cignetti has had no time to settle in since taking over Indiana football but his drive and commitment have led to his early success.
“What really drives me these last 20 days is the time period that I was hired and what needed done with the signing date coming up,” Cignetti said about the quick turnaround for him. “The number of guys we had in the portal, the number of guys we were going to have to replace because I knew that these 20 days were going to play a big, big part in our success in the fall and that we had to get it done.”
Cignetti has worked hard to rebuild the roster and his effort has paid off.
“There will be a new culture, identity here and expectation level in the way we play the game, and we’re not done recruiting yet,” Cignetti said about the new faces coming in. “We’ve signed 31 new ones today.”
Cignetti made it clear that despite 31 players signed (seven will not be announced until after they play their bowl games), he and his staff are not done building the roster for the 2024 season.
Just like he said in his introductory press conference, Cignetti has placed an emphasis on production over talent when recruiting players.
“I look for guys that have a body of work, guys that have started, played the entire season without getting injured and have production,” Cignetti said about his focus when targeting players. “And multiple years of production is even better because I firmly believe this: Like there are some intangible qualities that it takes to be a starter and make it through a season. You’ve got to be able to handle adversity, success, have consistency in performance. There’s just some characteristics and traits.”
Cignetti is not going to make it easy for anyone who plays for him. Playing for him means everything will be earned and nothing will be given on and off the field.
“But everything’s earned, not given. Nobody’s promised anything,” Cignetti said about a potential starting quarterback. “… Once in a while, a guy wants you to promise them something. What am I, nuts? I’m going to promise you something so that goes around the locker room? Nobody has anything. Everything’s earned. That’s how we run our program.”
Cignetti has learned from some of the greats and his experience in coaching starts from his childhood when he was able to observe Bobby Bowden at West Virginia when his dad worked for the legendary coach. His last job before becoming a head coach was under Nick Saban at Alabama.
Cignetti understands the sacrifice that it takes to win at the college level and he is ready to do whatever it takes to win, including the early mornings and late nights that come with coaching.
While he might not have any issues with his current work schedule, his car dealer might.
“So pretty good that a 60-year-old guy can still go at it like that although I do think I fell asleep for a half second this morning on the way to work, hit a curb, and blew my tire,” Cignetti said about the chaos of the build-up to signing day. “My car dealer is not going to be real happy with me.”
Cignetti may have some old-school mottos and he may need a personal driver, but his wealth of knowledge and experience has allowed him to win everywhere he has ever been and deliver the same message to everyone that ever asks about him.
“It’s pretty simple. I win. Google me.”
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