Interim Cincinnati coach will lead team in bowl game

Updated: November 27, 2006, 8:53 PM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was appointed Cincinnati's interim head coach Monday, a few hours after Mark Dantonio left for Michigan State.

Narduzzi will coach the Bearcats (7-5) in their bowl game, which hasn't been determined. Cincinnati became eligible for a bowl by winning four of its last five games, including an upset of then-unbeaten Rutgers.

Athletic director Mike Thomas said Narduzzi is a candidate for the permanent head coaching job, which he hopes to have filled before Christmas.

The 40-year-old Narduzzi has been defensive coordinator under Dantonio for the last three seasons. Cincinnati's defense was one of the youngest in the nation last season and it made dramatic improvement this year, moving up to 36th in Division I-A in yards allowed.

Narduzzi also was a defensive coach at Miami of Ohio, Northern Illinois and Rhode Island.

Thomas thought it was better to let the coaching staff handle the bowl game without Dantonio.

"I spoke with Mark this morning about whether or not he would stay and coach the bowl game, and it came out as a mutual decision that we would find a replacement for the game," Thomas said. "At the end of the day, it was my decision. I feel as though it is best for this program for Mark to move on with what he is doing at Michigan State."

At the start of his third season in Cincinnati, Dantonio asked fans to fill the Bearcats' 35,000-seat stadium. They didn't come close to a capacity crowd for any game. There were about 7,000 empty seats for the final home game against Rutgers, even though the school offered tickets at a deep discount.

Thomas said the inability to draw fans was a factor in Dantonio leaving.

"I think that the fact that at Michigan State they get 70,000 fans to come out to games, and here in Cincinnati, Coach was lucky to get 25,000," Thomas said. "I think that definitely played into his decision."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press