James Madison hires Curt Cignetti as head football coach

JMU head coach Curt Cignetti
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) -- Curt Cignetti has been hired to a six-year contract as the eighth head football coach at James Madison, the school announced today.

Cignetti has climbed the ladder throughout a 36-year football coaching career that has included multiple Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) stops and a 67-26 record (.720) in eight years as a head coach, six at NCAA Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania followed by the last two at Elon.

“After a thorough and extensive search, it was the clear choice for the search committee to appoint Curt Cignetti as the next head coach at James Madison,” James Madison Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne said in a news release. “In our discussions, he impressed with both his deep knowledge of the game as well as his intel regarding the current state of our program at JMU. He has recruited some of the best to ever play the sport at the FBS level. During his head coaching stints, he brought immediate improvement to both Elon and IUP and changed the trajectory of those programs. Above all, he cares about his student-athletes and their success in all facets of their collegiate experience. Curt Cignetti is the total package to lead James Madison football to even greater heights.”

Most recently, Cignetti was head coach at Elon, amassing a 14-9 record in two seasons after inheriting a program that went 12-45 in the previous five campaigns. The Phoenix qualified for the FCS Playoffs in both 2017 (8-4) and 2018 (6-5) to attain just the second and third Division I playoff appearances in program history (2009).

“I’d like to thank President Alger, Jeffrey Bourne, Charlie King, Roger Soenksen and Mike Battle for extending this opportunity to become the head football coach at James Madison University,” Cignetti said in the release. “I respect and understand the tradition of James Madison football and the great things that have gone on here in its growth and development.

Cignetti joined the staff at Alabama after spending seven seasons (2000-06) as the recruiting coordinator at North Carolina State while also coaching tight ends from 2000-02 and 2005-06 and quarterbacks during the 2003 and 2004 campaigns. NC State qualified for five bowl games during that time, including the 2002 Gator Bowl, when the team set a school record with 11 victories. One of his last recruits before moving to Alabama was quarterback Russell Wilson, who played at NC State before moving on to Wisconsin as a senior.

The first recruiting coordinator role for Cignetti came during a seven-year stint (1993-99) at Pittsburgh. He also coached the Panthers' tight ends and quarterbacks at various times under College Football Hall of Fame head coach Johnny Majors. Cignetti began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Pitt during the 1983 and 1984 seasons and was part of the team's Fiesta Bowl participant his first year. He coached quarterbacks and receivers at Davidson in 1985 and was the quarterbacks coach at Rice (1986-88) and Temple (1989-92).

A quarterback letter winner at West Virginia, Cignetti is a 1982 graduate of WVU with a 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 Indiana (Pa.).

Cignett's father, Frank Cignetti, 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). Nick Saban coached under Frank Cignetti before later employing Curt Cignetti at Alabama. Curt’s younger brother, Frank, Jr., currently serves as quarterbacks coach for the Green Bay Packers and has also held positions with the Giants, Rams, 49ers, Saints and Chiefs.