The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

May 31, 2013

Cignetti honored for his work at IUP

MORGANTOWN — Frank Cignetti, the man who preceded Don Nehlen as head football coach at West Virginia University, was elected to the College Football Divisional Hall of Fame Thursday for his two decades at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Cignetti is the winningest coach in IUP history, having compiled a 182-50 record.

Joining Cignetti in this year’s class are linebacker Shelby Jordan from Washington University in St. Louis, 1979-72; quarterback Joe Miccia of Westminster, Pa., 1987-89; offensive tackle Art Sell of Maryland Eastern Shore, 1964-67; and fullback Jeff Wittman of Ithaca, N.Y., 1989-92.

The coaches going in with Cignetti are James “Boots” Donnelly of Austin Peay and Middle Tennessee State, 1977-98, and Jess Dow of Southern Connecticut State, 1948-65.

“This is a truly exceptional group of College Football Hall of Fame inductees from the divisional ranks,” said National Football Foundation Chairman Archie Manning, a 1989 Hall of Fame inductee from Ole Miss. “We look forward to celebrating their accomplishments this summer, and we applaud them for reaching the pinnacle of recognition in our great sport.”

Cignetti attended Indiana as a player and was an NAIA All-American end during a playing career that went from 1965 to 1968. His outstanding coaching ability led to him becoming offensive coordinator under Hall of Fame coach Bobby Bowden from 1970-75 before taking over as the Mountaineers’ head coach for four seasons (1976-79).

Unfortunately, Cignetti was fighting a tougher fight than winning football games at the time, battling cancer as he continued to coach. To make matters worse, this was a period when the Mountaineers’ two top rivals, Pitt and Penn State, were at the top of their games.

Cignetti had built a strong staff with assistant coaches such as Rick Trickett, Joe Pendry, Gary Stevens, Tommy Bowden and current Alabama head coach Nick Saban but could not win, leaving after the 1979 season with a record of 17-27. If he did not leave behind a winning record, he did leave behind a number of winning players such as Oliver Luck and Darryl Talley upon whom Nehlen could begin building what would be a Hall of Fame career of his own.

“In my opinion, Frank Cignetti was never given the dues that he should have been given,” Nehlen once said. “He coached under a deplorable situation. No one could ever have won here.”

Cignetti remained at WVU through June 1982, working on facility projects.

In 1982, cured of cancer and eager to start over, he returned to his alma mater as football coach and athletic director, doing both so well that he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1996.

It didn’t take long for Cignetti to find success at IUP, leading the Hawks to conference titles in his first two seasons in 1986 and 1987 and subsequent Division II national title game appearances in 1990 and 1993.

He took IUP to 13 Division II playoffs appearances, including six trips to the national semifinals, and he led the Hawks to at least a co-share of the PSAC Western Division title 14 times. Under his tutelage, IUP ranked in the Top 20 each season from 1986-2004, achieving undefeated regular seasons in 1991 and 1993. He retired after the 2005 season as the third-winningest active coach in Division II.

Cignetti’s teams received the Lambert Cup 10 times as the top Division II team in the East. He was named the PSAC West Coach of the Year five times and the Kodak College Division Regional Coach of the Year three times en route to earning Chevrolet Division II National Coach of the Year honors in 1991. Cignetti coached 11 first-team All-Americans and 124 first-team All-PSAC performers.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.
    He intrigued the media far more than Bob Stoops, the coach of preseason favorite Oklahoma, and more than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, the preseason player of the year.

    July 25, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Five major sports topics of interest to area fans

    Tom Hart, a widely known retired Morgantown High School administrator and coach, continues to excel as one of the nation’s top bowlers.
    However, he told me he faces knee-replacement surgery. So he’s going to find it necessary to give up bowling during a period of rehab. Hart has competed in an amazing total of 45 U.S. Bowling Congress tournaments during his outstanding career.

    July 25, 2014

  • LINDLEY COLUMN: Better police needed for college teams enticed to cheat

    Cheating has been part of college athletics probably for as long as people have bothered to keep score.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.

    July 24, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Five major sports topics of interest to area fans

    Tom Hart, a widely known retired Morgantown High School administrator and coach, continues to excel as one of the nation’s top bowlers.

    July 24, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, Tennessee finalize 2018 meeting

    West Virginia University and Tennessee have finalized their season-opening, Sept. 1, 2018, meeting in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium.
    Both teams will receive $2.5 million for the game and have a chance to earn up to $3.2 million with ticket incentives.
    Each team will buy 12,500 tickets and set aside 2,000 of its allotment for students.
    The game, played on the home field of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, is being put on by the Charlotte Sports Federation.

    July 23, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos