University of Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck announced today the hiring of Kirk Ciarrocca. The veteran coach will serve as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, a role he previously held from 2017-19. The hire is pending approval of the Board of Regents.
Ciarrocca returns to the Twin Cities after being away for two years. He spent the 2020 season as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Penn State and served in a non-coaching role as an offensive analyst at West Virginia during the 2021 season.
In addition to previously working with Fleck at Minnesota, Ciarrocca was also Fleck’s offensive coordinator at Western Michigan for four seasons. He has spent seven total seasons as an offensive coordinator under Coach Fleck and helped both schools produce record-setting numbers on offense.
Ciarrocca started at Minnesota on Monday, Dec. 6, but after conversations between Fleck and West Virginia Coach Neal Brown, he will not be coaching in the upcoming Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Matt Simon, who is Minnesota’s wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator, will call the Minnesota offense during the Guaranteed Rate Bowl when the Gophers face the Mountaineers on December 28.
“We are excited to welcome Kirk back to Minnesota,” said Fleck. “Kirk is one of the best offensive coordinators in the game, but he is also a tremendous person. We have a long professional history of working together, and I look forward to reuniting with him.
“Coach Brown and I have known each other for a long time and have a great relationship,” said Fleck. “With Kirk having worked at both schools (Minnesota from 2017-2019 and West Virginia in 2021), we both agreed to not have Kirk coach in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl with his knowledge of both teams personnel. When we made the decision to hire Kirk, we did not yet know our bowl opponent. Coach Brown and I both thought this would be best to avoid any awkwardness for both sets of student-athletes. It’s the right thing to do.”
Ciarrocca coordinated some of the best offenses in Minnesota’s history during his first stint in Maroon and Gold.
In 2019, the Gophers averaged 432 yards per game (fourth most in school history in the modern era) and 34.1 points per game (third most in school history in the modern era). That same year, Minnesota rushed for 25 touchdowns and threw for 31 touchdowns, which was the first time in school history that the Gophers reached both of those numbers in the same season.
Ciarrocca was named one of 15 semifinalists for the Broyles Award in 2019 (presented annually to the best assistant coach in college football) as Minnesota joined LSU and Alabama and the only schools in the nation to produce two 1,000-yard receivers (Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Rodney Smith).
He also coached quarterback Tanner Morgan, who set school single-season records in passing yards (3,253), touchdown passes (30), completion percentage (66.0%), passing yards per game (250.2), touchdown-interception ratio (4.28) and passing efficiency rating (178.7). Morgan would be named All-Big Ten Second Team and was a finalist for The Manning Award and a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award.
The Gophers combined to pass for 51 touchdowns from 2018-2019, which is the most in school history in a two-year span. Minnesota scored 105 total touchdowns in 26 games during those two-years, which was the most since it scored 106 in 25 games from 2005-06. In addition, Minnesota punted only 93 times during the two-year stretch, which was the fewest since it also punted 93 times in 2005-06.
Ciarrocca spent the 2020 season at Penn State, which was drastically affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the irregularities of the season, Ciarrocca led one of the most balanced and efficient offenses in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions ranked second in the conference in total offense (430.3 yards per game), third in scoring (29.8 points per game), fourth in passing (256.0 yards per game) and fifth in rushing (174.3 yards per game).
Ciarrocca first came to Minnesota in 2017 after serving as the offensive coordinator at Western Michigan since 2013-16. The Broncos thrived under Ciarrocca in 2016, as they averaged 41.57 points per game (ninth most in the nation) and set program records in points (582), total yards (6,737) and touchdowns (75). This came after setting records in the same categories in 2015.
(photo and info courtesy of Gopher Sports)