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‘There will be no self-imposed limitations’: Curt Cignetti avoiding complacency and already changing the expectation around Indiana football



Indiana football head coach Curt Cignetti
New Indiana football head coach Curt Cignetti oozed confidence in his introductory press conference and is ready to change the IU culture. (Indiana Athletics)

To put it simply, new Indiana football head coach Curt Cignetti is bringing a new type of confidence to the program that it hasn’t had in quite some time.

Confidence is not something Cignetti lacks. And, he shouldn’t. In his 13 seasons on the sidelines as a head coach, he has 13 winning season. Cignetti has transformed IU-Pennsylvania, Elon and James Madison from historically struggling programs to powers at their respective levels. He’s never backed away from a challenge — part of the reason he’s in Bloomington now.

While Indiana and the Big Ten is a different challenge, it’s one that Cignetti is ready for.

“It’s a challenge that really got my juices flowing,” Cignetti said Friday at his introductory press conference. “You’ve got to be uncomfortable to grow, and I’m too young to stop growing … we have a blueprint and a plan that’s been successful, proven to be successful, and no reason it shouldn’t be successful again.”

That plan is going to be put to the test. The Indiana football program was 3-9 this season and has just a 9-27 record over the last three years.

Indiana was the only one-win team in the Big Ten this season. Its record in conference games in the last three years? 3-24.

“We’re going to change the culture, the mindset, the expectation level, and improve the brand of Indiana Hoosier football,” Cignetti said. “There will be no self-imposed limitations on what we can accomplish. It will be a day-by-day process that is hinged on being focused on the present moment and improving as much daily as possible to put yourself in the best position tomorrow.”

The first step of Cignetti’s plan is changing the mindset — something that had become something of ‘complacency’ and ‘average’ over the last couple of seasons.

That won’t cut it for Cignetti.

“When I start talking about making sure we got the edge of winning complacency, everybody’s mindset where it needs to be, it starts the second I walk in that staff room because it’s a top-down approach. It starts with me, and I make sure those guys are thinking like we need them to think because it’s going to filter down to players.”

“It’s wanting to be great versus wanting to be normal,”Cignetti said. “Normal kind of equals average. Average is okay. There’s no problem with average except in my business. My business, average is the enemy, and to be great, you’ve got to have special focus, special commitment, special preparation, and discipline and the ability to say no to some things.”

That mindset and expectation to be average has come from years and years of less than mediocre play on the field. The Indiana football program has lost more games than any other school in college football history. That’s a large task to change the mindset of the players and fans overnight.

But, his message to the team when meeting with them on Friday was just that.

“We’re going to work every day to be the best that we can be,” Cignetti said. “We have no self-imposed limitations. I told them I was excited and that we were going to change the brand, the culture, the mindset, the expectation level.”

Cignetti’s confidence and expectation level comes from years and years of great mentors in his life — most notably his father and Nick Saban.

Related: Indiana football head coach Curt Cignetti receives ringing endorsement from Nick Saban

What he’s learned from them is much more than just the Xs and Os. It’s how to be successful, sustain that success and then building it.

“Just everything from A to Z — monthly calendar, how to lead and manage people, how to avoid complacency, which he was so good at on a day-to-day, minute-to-minute, second-to-second count,” Cignetti said of what he’s learned. “How to practice, how to play the game, plan for winning the game, how to recruit, how to evaluate, how to staff or restaff every year.”

That’s exactly what Cignetti is looking to do at Indiana.

The new era for Indiana football started on Friday.

“This is a tremendous institution that its time has come to make some noise and make a statement,” Cignetti said. “And we’re going to work every day to make that happen.”

SEE ALSO: What we learned from Curt Cignetti’s Indiana football introductory press conference

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.