Matt Nardo’s coaching career has taken him virtually across the country.
The St. John Central High School graduate, who turns 40 later this year, has made stops in Ohio, Kansas, North Carolina, Florida and Kentucky to name a few .
Outside of a high school job, all of his college experience came as an assistant.
So far, however.
Last month, Nardo was hired as a new head coach at Bluffton University, located in Bluffton, Ohio, just a 3.5 hour drive from the Ohio Valley.
“It’s an incredible opportunity and getting it in Ohio, which is one of the best soccer states in the country, makes it even more exciting,” he added. Nardo said in a recent telephone interview. “I’m really excited to get started and to start digging into the expectations and requirements of being a head coach at the college level. “
Finding 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 go.
“It’s been a crazy three weeks, but we crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s, so I’m really diving into that now.” said Nardo. “I have met people on campus in different ways and I feel 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 will outline the expectations and standards that will be part of the success of this place”, said Nardo. “My belief is that, ‘together in faith we are successful.’ I believe, especially as Bluffton being a Christian school, everyone who comes here should have the same basic belief and that is what binds us together.
Nardo is inheriting a schedule that ended 4-6 in 2021, so he realizes that the schedule is reaching the level he wants and believes this won’t happen without the full buy-in from his players and its staff.
“There are going to be changes in the way guys have looked at it before, but they’re necessary to get to where we want to be,” said Nardo. “We all have to embrace the change and realize that if the change hadn’t been necessary, I wouldn’t have been brought about. No one is ever a finished product. We will have to keep fighting. “
Bluffton hasn’t won a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference title since 2000, but Nardo believes the narrative can be changed.
“The more I got involved in the process (at Bluffton), the more excited I got with people”, said Nardo. “The president has a clear vision of where she wants it to go and the facilities are exceptional. There are great people here. Our (Deputy) AD (James Grandey) is a Muskingum graduate, whom I have known for a long time through connections with guys who have helped shape me and my career like Jeff Heacock and Larry Shank. I have known the last two head coaches here and one of them is now a linebacker coach at Iowa State. It is a place where you can be successful. Our goal is to win the conference, and we realize it’s difficult, but it’s not impossible.
Nardo plans to attack this goal by recruiting, of course. Bluffton is located along Interstate 75 in Northeast Ohio, which means there are plenty of players in a relatively short drive.
“The recruiting base is incredible considering you can be in Cincinnati in two hours, Toledo in 90 minutes, and 90 minutes for Columbus.” said Nardo. “We are 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 have the opportunity to work with their players in the spring.
“We will be able to do some installations and bring the players to a level of comfort for their return (in August)” said Nardo.
When the Beavers open their season in September at Kenyon College, it will begin the 18th season Nardo has spent as a college coach.
He finds it hard to understand that.
“I still consider myself a young coach” Nardo burst out laughing. “It’s amazing how little you knew when you think you know a lot. “
Basically, it’s professional work in a nutshell, but it’s especially true for coaching.
Nardo’s already expansive resume includes stops at the NCAA Division II and III levels as well as a NAIA stop. He spent five years as an offensive coordinator, made two trips to the NCAA Division II playoffs, and earned two top 10 and 11 consecutive seasons.
“I am grateful for all the relationships I have established through the people I have worked with” said Nardo. “Those (relationships) are really what makes this (profession) fun. The most exciting part of getting this job has been seeing the awareness of people throughout my career.
Nardo had always wanted to pursue the coaching industry. However, when he graduated from St. John Central and headed to Ohio University, he had in mind that he would graduate from college and eventually return to the Ohio Valley and would result in a high school program.
“I am not sure I have considered the longevity of this profession after leaving high school, because it is such a marathon to stay there” said Nardo. “To survive for a long time is like a war of attrition.”
* STEUBENVILLE GRAD Mike DiAngelo continues to climb the world of college football coaches. He was recently hired by Rich Rodriguez’s staff in Jacksonville State as a quarterbacks coach. He and Rodriguez had worked together before.
* TWO AREA baseball teams have been invited to participate in the Ohio Prep Baseball Spring Classic at Chillicothe Paints Stadium on Saturday April 16. Toronto will face defending Division III 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 Tigers are the only Division IV teams on the field.
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