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UAlbany selects Ford's successor
New University at Albany football coach Greg Gattuso got the best possible endorsement from Bob Ford, the beloved figure he is replacing.
“I think he’s cut from the same cloth as I am in many respects,” Ford said. “The kids are very important to him. I think he’ll do a good job.”
UAlbany announced on Monday the hiring of Gattuso, Maryland’s assistant head coach and defensive line coach, who is charged with rebuilding the program that Ford led for its entire 41-season varsity history.
Gattuso will be introduced at a news conference at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday in SEFCU Arena’s Hall of Fame Room. He met with the players Monday.
“I am fired up to meet the kids and get started,” said Gattuso in a news release. “I feel the BCS training has sharpened my leadership skills and I am excited to be a head coach again.”
Gattuso, 51, served as the head coach at Duquesne, a Football Championship Subdivision school, from 1993 to 2004. There he compiled a 97-32 record before moving on to assistant roles at Pittsburgh and Maryland, both Bowl Championship Series programs.
He received a five-year contract with a $230,000 annual base salary to turn around UAlbany, an FCS program which fell to a 1-11 record in their first season in the Colonial Athletic Association.
New England Patriots defensive tackle Joe Vellano, a CBA graduate, played for two seasons at Maryland under Gattuso, who was Vellano’s position coach.
“He’s just a really class act,” Vellano said in a phone interview. “He’s a great recruiter and really knows football’s ins and outs. He’s still in that teaching phase, which is good for the kids. I learned a lot from him … I think he’s a great fit for the program.”
Ford, 76, announced his retirement prior to this past season and then took the bullet as the Great Danes struggled against CAA programs that had 63 scholarships to UAlbany’s 54, a figure that included several true freshmen who sat out while redshirting.
It was one of the few bad seasons on Ford’s record, which included 265 victories and six Northeast Conference titles before the Great Danes moved up to the tougher CAA.
UAlbany athletic director Lee McElroy is counting on Gattuso as the man to return the program to those heights.
“Coach Gattuso is a proven winner who will sustain the legacy created by Bob Ford,” McElroy said in the university release. “His values of integrity, academic excellence, community service, and humility reflect the University’s commitment to quality.”
McElroy and UAlbany president Robert Jones decided to go outside the “Purple Family,” as UAlbany football calls itself, to hire someone with no connection to the program. New Haven head coach Peter Rossomando, who is a former UAlbany offensive coordinator, and current Great Danes associate head coach Ryan McCarthy were also considered for the opening.
“You can become a little stagnated if you just have in-house guys all the time,” Ford said. “I think (Gattuso) brings fresh ideas. I would have been very happy with any of those guys. The thing was, I didn’t want somebody that wasn’t going to work. I didn’t want somebody who didn’t put the kids first.”
UAlbany also interviewed Delaware coach K.C. Keeler, who guided the Blue Hens to three FCS national title games but was fired after the 2012 season.
By Mark Singelais, Times-Union