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Nardo excited for first head coaching job

Matt Nardo’s coaching career has taken him basically all over the country.

The St. John Central High School graduate, who will turn 40 later this year, has made stops in Ohio, Kansas, North Carolina, Florida and Kentucky to name a few.

Outside of a high school position, all of his collegiate experience has come as an assistant.

Until now, however.

Last month, Nardo was hired as the new head coach at Bluffton University, which is located in Bluffton, Ohio, just a 3.5 hour-drive from the Ohio Valley.

“This is an unbelievable opportunity and to get that in Ohio, which is one of the top football states in the country makes it even more exciting,” Nardo said during a recent phone interview. “I am really excited to get started and start digging into the expectations and demands of being a head coach at the college level.”

Getting a new job in the middle of the holiday season was a bit of a challenge, but Nardo returned to campus on Monday and was ready to hit the ground running.

“It was a crazy three weeks, but we got the Ts crossed and the Is dotted, so I am really diving into this now,” Nardo said. “I’ve been meeting with people on campus in different aspects and just becoming comfortable.”

Nardo will meet his team this week. The students return to campus on Wednesday and that evening he will host his first team meeting.

“I’ll lay out the expectations and standards that will be a part of the success of this place,” Nardo said. “My belief is that, ‘together in faith, we succeed.’ I believe, especially with Bluffton being a Christian-based school, everyone who comes here should have the same basic belief and that’s what binds us together.”

Nardo is inheriting a program that finished 4-6 in 2021, so he realizes getting the program to the level at which he desires and believes it can be won’t happen without full buy in from his players and staff.

“There are going to be changes to how the guys have seen things done before, but they’re necessary to get to where we want to be,” Nardo said. “We all need to embrace the change and realize that if change wasn’t necessary, I wouldn’t have been brought in. We just need to get the kids to buy in to the new way of doing things. No one is ever a finished product. We will need to keep striving.”

Bluffton hasn’t won a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference title since 2000, but Nardo believes that narrative can be changed.

“The more I became involved with the process (at Bluffton), the more excited I became with the people,” Nardo said. “The president has a clear vision of where she wants this to go and the facilities are outstanding. There are great people here. Our (Deputy) A.D. (James Grandey) is a Muskingum grad, who I have known a long time through relationships with guys who have helped to form me and my career like Jeff Heacock and Larry Shank. I’ve known the last two head coaches here and one of them is now a linebackers coach at Iowa State. This is a place you can be successful. Our goal is to win the conference, and we realize it’s hard, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.”

Nardo plans to attack that goal through recruiting, of course. Bluffton is located along Interstate 75 in Northeast Ohio, meaning there are plenty of players within a relatively short drive.

“The recruiting base is unbelievable when you consider you can be in Cincinnati in two hours, Toledo in 90 minutes and 90 minutes to Columbus,” Nardo said. “We’re surrounded by great football with direct access. We have to win at home with cities like Lima and Findlay in the Northwest region. We need to get in front of the high school coaches and be a resource for them.”

Nardo and his staff will get the opportunity to work with their players some in the spring.

“We’ll be able to get some installation done and get the players to a comfort level for when they come back (in August),” Nardo said.

When the Beavers open their season in September at Kenyon College, it will begin the 18th season Nardo has spent as a collegiate coach.

He’s having trouble wrapping his head around that.

“I still consider myself a young coach,” Nardo laughed. “It’s amazing how little you knew when you think you knew a lot.”

Basically that’s professional work in a nutshell, but it’s especially true for coaching.

Included on Nardo’s already vast resume are stops at the NCAA Division II and III levels as well as an NAIA stop. He’s spent five years as an offensive coordinator, made two trips to the NCAA Division II playoffs and had two top 10 rankings and back-to-back 11-seasons.

“I’m thankful for all of the relationships I’ve made through the people I’ve worked with,” Nardo said. “Those (relationships) are really what makes this (profession) fun. The most exciting part of getting this job was seeing the outreach from people from throughout my career.”

Nardo had always wanted to pursue the coaching industry. However, when he graduated from St. John Central and headed for Ohio University, he had in the back of his mind that he’d complete his undegrad degree and eventually return to the Ohio Valley and coach a high school program.

“I am not sure I envisioned the longevity in this profession when I was coming out of high school because it’s such a marathon to stay in it,” Nardo said. “To survive for a long time is like a war of attrition.”

SETH’S SCOOPS

* STEUBENVILLE GRAD Mike DiAngelo continues to make the climb in the college football coaching world. He was recently hired to Rich Rodriguez’ staff at Jacksonville State as the quarterbacks coach. He and Rodriguez had worked together previously.

* TWO AREA baseball teams have been invited to take part in the Ohio Prep Baseball Spring Classic at Chillicothe Paints Stadium on Saturday, April 16. Toronto will take on defending Division III state champion Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy at 12:30 p.m. and Shadyside will take on Cincinnati St. Xavier at 3 p.m. The Red Knights and the Tigers are the only Division IV teams in the field.

Staskey can be reached via email at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com or at twitter.com/TLSportsSeth

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