Gophers welcome back Kirk Ciarrocca as offensive coordinator

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Dec. 7—The Gophers football program has officially brought back Kirk Ciarrocca as offensive coordinator, the school said Monday.

Ciarrocca will return as OC and quarterbacks coach, a role he had under head coach P.J. Fleck at Minnesota from 2017-19. Ciarrocca left Minnesota after the 2019 season to become offensive coordinator at Penn State in 2020 and offensive analyst at West Virginia in 2021.

"Kirk is one of the best offensive coordinators in the game, but he is also a tremendous person," Fleck said in a statement. "We have a long professional history of working together, and I look forward to reuniting with him."

The Gophers play West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix on Dec. 28, and while Ciarrocca restarted at Minnesota on Monday, he will not coach in the bowl game after conversations with Fleck and Mountaineers coach Neal Brown.

"We both agreed to not have Kirk coach in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl with his knowledge of both teams' personnel," Fleck continued. "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."

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

Ciarrocca replaces Mike Sanford Jr., who was let go last week after the U's performances didn't come close to matching the heights of Ciarrocca's best season in 2019. Sanford was at the end of a two-year contract paying him $663,000 per year.

Ciarrocca left Minnesota when he was set for a raise to $1 million per year in 2020; terms of his new deal were not shared, and the Gophers added his hire is pending Board of Regent approval.

Brown has known Ciarrocca for 20 years and had a lot of praise for him during a virtual bowl game news conference on Sunday.

"I think if you are talking about a system, the best thing that I can use is he is efficient," Brown said. "If you look throughout his career, he's been extremely efficient. I think he's been able to find unique ways to run the football at every stop, regardless of what his personnel is. ... He's efficient, so when you are talking about an offensive coach. I think that is what we are all hunting and he's done it better than most."

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