The Elon University football team introduced Curt Cignetti as its 22nd head coach in program history Monday afternoon at a press conference.
Cignetti, former coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, made it clear that he was content to stay at IUP despite other offers from FCS schools, but once he visited Elon, his “mindset had totally changed in terms of what I wanted to do.”
“I really wasn't looking to make a move,” Cignetti said. “But when I came down and saw the growth and development that has taken place at Elon since I was at [North Carolina] State University, and then met the people — President Lambert, [Provost] Steven House, [Director of Athletics] David Blank — and listened to their vision and looked with my eyes at what they had done over the last 10-12 years, it was very apparent to me that this was a dynamic, growing university led by someone that was a leader, had a plan and executed his plan.
“I looked around and I said to myself, 'Why can't you not get it done in football here? Why is football lagging behind the rest of the university in terms of that progress?' And I could not find an answer.”
Cignetti will now look to become that answer, bringing to Elon some top-level recruiting experience from his time at schools such as the University of Pittsburgh, North Carolina State and the University of Alabama. Cignetti also had a strong run as a head coach — Blank said Cignetti's 53-17 record in six seasons at IUP was critical.
“We wanted to find somebody that had demonstrated that they knew how to be a head coach, and hopefully was a current head coach, and hopefully they were being successful as a head coach,” Blank said. “It didn’t take long to lead us straight to Curt Cignetti. It was clear he was somebody we were interested in from the beginning of the process, and we are thrilled to have Curt at the end of our process.”
Cignetti comes to Elon to replace Rich Skrosky, who went 7-27 in his three years as head coach before taking the offensive coordinator position at Florida International University two weeks ago. The lack of on-field success was something Cignetti focused on, saying that this job is “all about finding the edge."
“There's a lot of aspects in your program, the words that I've mentioned before – recruiting and development,” Cignetti said. “Part of development is in-season game planning and strategizing. In recruiting, it's evaluation and sales. Finding the edge is just that little bit that might get you over the hump, and that's what we're trying to do every day.
“You've got to build a championship program. We're not a championship program right now or I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you.”
Cignetti said the Phoenix under him will be “be an up-tempo, exciting team that plays fast and physical and relentless.” He said he is meeting with the current staff in the coming week before making any final decisions on his staff, saying, “100 percent of my time is going to be devoted to starting to put the staff together.”
But in the end, Cignetti says that he’ll hold high standards in everything Elon does, with one person in particular getting the responsibility for it.
“We're going to create a great student-athlete experience and we're going to get people on the campus and in the community excited and on board,” Cignetti said. “And that is what we're going to do. Now how are we going to do it, OK? Well, it's a process. It's a process.
“I'm the leader. It starts and ends with me.”