Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Gophers welcome Kirk Ciarokka as offensive coordinator

The school said Monday that the Gophers football program has officially brought back Kirk Ciarokka as offensive coordinator.

Ciarrocca will return as OC and quarterback coach, a role he held under head coach PJ Fleck from 2017–19. Ciaroca left Minnesota after the 2019 season to become offensive coordinator at Penn State in 2020 and offensive analyst at West Virginia in 2021.

“We are excited to welcome Kirk back to Minnesota,” Fleck said in a statement. “Kirk is one of the best offensive coordinators in the sport, but he’s also a tremendous individual. We have a long professional history of working together, and I look forward to joining him again.”

The Gophers play West Virginia at the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix on December 28, and when Ciaroca resumes in Minnesota on Monday, he will not coach in a bowl game after talks with Fleck and Mountaineers coach Neil Brown Yu said.

“We both agreed with our knowledge of both teams’ personnel not to have Kirk coach in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl,” Fleck continued. “We didn’t know our opponent until we decided to hire Kirk. Coach Brown and I both thought it was best to avoid any awkwardness for both sets of student-athletes. It will be the right thing to do.”

Matt Simon, U of U’s wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator, will call offensive plays during bowl games. He previously called plays in the Outback Bowl win on New Year’s Day 2020.

Ciarrocca replaces Mike Sanford Jr., who was let go last week. Sanford was on the end of a two-year contract paying him $650,000 per year.

Ciarrocca left Minnesota when it was set to raise up to $1 million a year; The terms of their new deal were not shared and the Gophers said their rent was pending approval of the Board of Regents.

The Browns have known Ciarocca for 20 years and were highly praised during Sunday’s virtual bowl game news conference.

“I think if you’re talking about a system, the best thing I can use is efficient,” Brown said, “if you look at his entire career, he’s been extremely efficient. I think he’s been able to find unique ways to steer the football at every stage, no matter what his staff. … He’s skilled, so when you’re talking about an offensive coach. I guess That’s what we all are hunting for and he has done it in the best way possible.”

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