Colorado State hired the first Black head football coach in program history Monday, bringing in Nevada's Jay Norvell to take over for Steve Addazio.
Norvell is coming off a season in which he guided the Wolf Pack to an 8-4 record and a spot in the Quick Lane Bowl against Western Michigan on Dec. 27.
“From the outset, the interest in our coaching position was significant, but one name and resume stood above the rest from the very beginning – Jay Norvell,” Colorado State director of athletics Joe Parker said in a statement.
An offensive innovator, Norvell has led his team to bowl games in four of the five seasons he’s been at Nevada. He’s 33-26 since being hired by the Wolf Pack on Dec. 9, 2016. That includes a 2-1 mark against fellow Mountain West member Colorado State. The Wolf Pack beat Colorado State 52-10 on Nov. 27 in a game where Addazio was ejected. It would prove to be Addazio's final contest with the Rams.
The hiring of Norvell didn’t take long after Addazio was fired last Thursday. Addazio was let go after posting a 4-12 record over two seasons in Fort Collins. Addazio's tenure got off to a rocky start a year ago when the university opened an investigation into the program’s handling of COVID-19 cases, which uncovered allegations of racism and verbal abuse toward athletes.
Norvell found success at Nevada through his spin on a version of the “Air Raid” offense, which is usually run out of a shotgun formation but his style incorporates some under-the-center schemes and features a physical ground game. His offensive coordinator at Nevada was Matt Mumme, whose father, Hal, helped popularize the “Air Raid” offense. The Wolf Pack were fourth in the nation in passing offense this season, averaging 365.8 yards per game.
Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth said in a statement that assistant coach Vai Taua will serve as the interim coach for the Wolf Pack's bowl game. Knuth added that a national search will immediately begin for Norvell's replacement.
“We are grateful for the foundation built by head coach Jay Norvell during his five seasons here at Nevada and wish him and his entire family the best in his new endeavor,” Knuth said. “He has made a significant impact on our football program and in the lives of our student-athletes.”
Denver Broncos outside linebacker Malik Reed played for Norvell at Nevada and described him as “very detail-oriented.”
“He’s going to add that right intensity when it comes to the practice field and day-to-day organization,” said Reed, who made the Broncos out of training camp as a college free agent in 2019. “He’s done a lot for Nevada and Reno and the whole city, so I just wish him all the best.”
The 58-year-old Norvell was a standout defensive back at Iowa before embarking on his coaching career. He’s had stops at Arizona State, Texas, Oklahoma, UCLA, Nebraska, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Northern Iowa and with the Hawkeyes. Norvell’s coaching path also included the NFL, where he was once the receivers coach for the Indianapolis Colts and then a tight ends coach with the Raiders.
In total, he has been to 22 bowl games as both a player and a coach. Norvell is also the author of a book titled “Complete Wide Receiver" that was published in 2012.
The next chapter: Restoring the luster to Colorado State, which hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2017.
“I am humbled, thankful, but most importantly excited to begin this process of building Colorado State into the championship contender we all know it can be,” Norvell said. “My family and I are ecstatic and cannot wait to get to Fort Collins to get started.”
AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo and AP NFL Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.
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