It's well documented that Scott Shafer's current staff with the Syracuse Orange football program is built on his connections and friendships from his time in the MAC. Almost everyone who was part of Shafer's initial hires also coached with him at either Northern Illinois or Western Michigan. We can debate the merits of Shafer's "you're coming with me" strategy but there's something to be said for the way that "mid-major" conference is a breeding ground for future coaching talent.
Just look at the Pittsburgh Panthers, who have hired former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi as their new head coach. Before Narduzzi leaves in two years to take over MSU (or some other B10 program), he'll have a chance to build Pitt back up to prominence and he'll probably do so with a staff that's got MAC connections as well. Narduzzi began his coaching career at a GA at Miami (OH) and also spent time with Rhode Island, Northern Illinois and a return stint with Miami before moving on to the major conferences.
If that career path sounds familiar, that's because it mirrors Scott Shafer's pretty evenly. In fact, the duo have a whole lot of overlap. Narduzzi came to URI in 1993 as the LB coach and sitting next to him in staff meetings was Shafer, who took over for the DBs that same year. The two coached together until 1995 when Shafer left for Northern Illinois. Shafer worked his way up to DC and then Narduzzi was hired as his LB coach in 2000 and the two worked together until 2002 when Narduzzi got his first DC gig.
And now, here they both are in the ACC. They're also coaching head-to-head at "rival" schools in games that should have postseason implications for at least one of the programs any given season. It's a chance for the two former MAC coaches to succeed at the next level, and in a weird way, do it together. Seems to be a MAC thing.
Of course, the MAC connection doesn't mean everyone's here to be friends. Narduzzi, like Shafer before him has a staff to build. Like Shafer before him, he might look to his past to help build his future. One such connection could be current SU defensive line coach Tim Daoust, who worked under Narduzzi at Cincinnati for a season before moving on to Western Michigan to work under Shafer (you keeping up?).
That's why you could read into something like Narduzzi deciding to follow Daoust on Twitter about the same time he chooses to follow another assistant coach (Nebraska OC Tim Beck) and feel like something could be brewing. If Narduzzi dangles the DC position in front of Daoust...why not jump? That's getting ahead of ourselves, perhaps, but if we've learned anything with Shafer, it's that the connections coaches make in their careers run deep. Combine those friendships with opportunity and that's how staffs are made, whether it's Syracuse or Pitt or someplace else.
All in all, if this adds some flavor to the Syracuse - Pitt rivalry, we should be all for it. It's a series that needs...something. Like so many things, we might have the MAC for thank for that, too.
Welcome to the fold, Coach Nardz. We hate you now.