Just a little more than a year after Cal coach Jeff Tedford brought in an offensive coordinator to call the plays so he could get a better pulse of the entire program, he is back where he started after Frank Cignetti left to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
Tedford hired Cignetti in January 2008 after the Bears' second-half collapse in 2007. After Cal lost five of its final six regular season games, a slide in which chemistry and leadership deficiencies surfaced, Tedford decided to shed play-calling duties so he could oversee the entire program more effectively. He brought in Cignetti, who called the plays last season.
But Cignetti, who is from Pittsburgh, said he couldn't pass up the opportunity to return home and even took a pay cut. His first coaching job was as a grad assistant for the Panthers in 1989.
"When you look at the cost of living, that's where you have to make a decision," Cignetti said at a news conference. "And there are so many things that are more important than money. How important it is to live back at home, to have my kids grow up around their grandparents, my wife's family, their cousins — to me, you can't put a price tag on that."
The Pittsburgh job may also be more of an opportunity for Cignetti to make an impact. Although he was the coordinator at Cal, Tedford was still heavily involved in offensive game planning. Pittsburgh coach Dave
But Cignetti said that didn't play a role in his decision.
"It was no factor," he said. "Jeff Tedford has been awesome. Working for him the last year has been unbelievable. Just because Jeff was an offensive-minded guy and Dave is a defensive-minded guy — that had nothing to do with this decision. This was just a great opportunity to work at a great institution and do it while being close to my family."
Tedford was unavailable for an interview but said in a statement: "Frank did a good job for us in his one year here. His family ties are very strong, and this is a great opportunity for him to get back to his hometown and for his kids to grow up with both sets of grandparents. Frank went to school in Pennsylvania, and his father was a longtime college coach in the area. He has aimed to get back there for some time, and we wish him well."
A Cal spokesman said Tedford will begin looking for a replacement immediately.
Cignetti is the second offensive coach the Bears have lost since the end of the season. Former offensive line coach Jim Michalczik left to become the offensive coordinator at Washington but later accepted a job as offensive line coach with the Raiders.
Cignetti's departure comes less than three weeks before the March 10 start of spring practice. It is unclear if Tedford expects to have a new offensive coordinator in place by then. Because the basic philosophies of the offense are Tedford's, it's probably not urgent.
Note: Former Cal center Alex Mack will not go through drills at this week's NFL scouting combine after suffering a sprained ankle Monday. Mack is projected as a late-first round or early-second round selection.
Contact Jonathan Okanes at firstname.lastname@example.org.