Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca is staying put.
Ciarrocca turned down an offer to join West Virginia’s offensive staff under new coach Neal Brown and will remain with Minnesota, a source with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday.
The West Virginia-based “Eer Sports,” a 247Sports.com affiliate, reported Monday that Brown was in the process of adding Ciarrocca to his staff. But a Star Tribune source said Ciarrocca, who also serves as Gophers quarterbacks coach, had not made a decision as of Monday afternoon.
Instead of obtaining Ciarrocca, West Virginia was finalizing a deal to make newly hired Louisville running backs coach Chad Scott its co-offensive coordinator, according to Yahoo Sports.
With Ciarrocca staying, the Gophers and coach P.J. Fleck keep a key member of their coaching staff and one that helped a young offense improve in 2018, especially down the stretch. The Gophers averaged 32.5 points in their final six games, including a 3-1 finish that secured bowl eligibility and a 7-6 record after routing Georgia Tech 34-10 in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26.
In starting as many as eight freshmen on offense this fall, the Gophers made big strides from 2017, the first year under Fleck and Ciarrocca. Minnesota averaged 28.9 points per game, which ranked 65th nationally. That was a jump from 2017, when the Gophers were 108th at 22.1.
Even with freshmen quarterbacks Tanner Morgan and Zack Annexstad, Minnesota passed for 208.8 yards per game this fall, up from 126.1 in 2017.
“I’m really proud of these kids,” Ciarrocca said during bowl preparation in December; he was not available for comment Tuesday. “They made a commitment last January. We looked at the numbers. ‘These are our numbers. This is what we did. … We stink.’ … We had to get better every day and maximize every second we’re in this [practice] building.”
With Morgan and Annexstad returning, along with star wide receiver Tyler Johnson and 1,000-yard rusher Mohamed Ibrahim, Ciarrocca will have plenty of weapons at his disposal in 2019. The coaching staff expects the team’s top two running backs entering 2018, Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks, will return from knee injuries that limited them to a combined three games last season. And productive freshmen receivers Rashod Bateman, Chris Autman-Bell and Demetrius Douglas are solid complements to Johnson.
It was uncertain if Ciarrocca received a pay raise to stay.
He made $710,000 in 2018, a figure that tied with since-fired defensive coordinator Robb Smith for the most among Gophers assistants. According to USA Today’s database of assistant coaching salaries, Ciarrocca’s salary ranked 13th among Big Ten assistants in 2018. Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, who was let go Monday, was the highest-paid Big Ten assistant at $1.5 million.
Five assistants in the conference made $1 million or more in 2018, and all were from either Ohio State or Michigan. By comparison, Ciarrocca’s salary was slightly lower than that of Wisconsin offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph, who made $720,200.