BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana’s athletic director Scott Dolson wanted a fast-moving process in selecting the Hoosiers’ next football coach. Just a few days after dismissing Tom Allen, they’ve found their guy. Curt Cignetti, the head coach at James Madison University since 2019, has agreed to become the next head football coach for Indiana.
As of 2:20 PM ET, no update has been provided on whether Cignetti will coach the Dukes in their bowl game, and no news has surfaced related to which assistants and players Cignetti will bring over from JMU. The fall transfer window officially opens on Monday, Dec. 4.
Dolson hired Cignetti over other potential candidates including Mike Hart, Paul Chryst, Tom Herman, and Justin Frye. James Madison went 11-1 this season, reaching a high of No. 18 in the weekly AP Poll.
Cignetti has a consistent track record for turning around a program and building consistent, victorious teams. He started his head coaching career in 2011 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and amounted a 53-17 record in six seasons. He then became head coach at Elon, a tough place to win in the FCS, making the Division I playoffs two consecutive years for the first time in program history. Cignetti’s most impressive head coaching job has taken place at James Madison in Harrisonburg, VA, where he brought the school to the FCS national championship game in his first season followed by semifinals two years in a row.
The Dukes are now in the FBS Sun Belt Conference, where he has amounted a 19-4 record in his last two seasons.
The Dukes were previously denied going to a bowl game this season as there is a two season postseason ban on programs making the jump into the FBS. However, there were not enough 6-win teams this season so James Madison and Cignetti will be going to a bowl this postseason.
James Madison’s only loss this season has been to Appalachian State, 26-23. Due to NCAA rules, Appalachian State will represent the Sun Belt’s East Division in the conference title game this weekend, even though they had a 6-2 record in the division to JMU’s 7-1.
Other accomplishments for Cignetti include being a part of Nick Saban’s coaching staff in 2009 when they won their national championship. During this time at Alabama, he coached WR Julio Jones. He also helped recruit Heisman winning RB Mark Ingram to Alabama. He also helped recruit Russell Wilson to NC State when he was on their staff. QB Phillip Rivers was also on a player for four years during his time on the NC State staff.
Prior to his stints as a head coach, all of Cignetti’s assistant coach roles came on the offensive side of the ball. He has won six conference coach of the year awards in three different leagues.
Now, Indiana has one thing in common with these previous head coaching jobs – it is a tough place to win. The biggest difference is that Indiana has plenty of resources to build a strong team, but have not had consistency or positive momentum for a consistent stretch.
Indiana prioritized finding a head coach with experience rather than promoting someone who has never been a head coach previously. Cignetti absolutely fits the bill.
The biggest concerns for Cignetti is that Indiana would be his first head coaching job at a Power 5 program and the challenges involving recruiting and the transfer portal. He is already 62 years old as well, but this is plenty of time to have him develop a program that has lost its footing since the 2020 year.
As a result of hiring Cignetti, Indiana owes James Madison $1.2 million as part of the contract buyout clause. This seems like pocket change in comparison to the $15.5 million buyout for Tom Allen.
Cover photo: David Yeazell/USA TODAY Sports