Coach Kool, AKA Craig Kuligowski, is gone from the University of Miami, which is entirely uncool with Hurricanes fans who understandably consider him one of the best college defensive line coaches in the nation.
Another big Kool fan is Alabama coach Nick Saban, whose national championship football program is reportedly hiring the now-former UM defensive line coach, according to SI.com.
Kuligowski’s aptly named twitter handle: “@LetsMeetAtTheQB.”
So, who could replace Kuligowski fairly seamlessly?
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The fan favorite, who seems to make plenty of sense from many perspectives, is former Hurricanes star and current North Carolina State defensive line coach Kevin Patrick, 46, a former first-team AP All-American defensive end and Big East Defensive Player of the Year. He grew up in the same county as head coach Mark Richt (Palm Beach), was on national title teams in 1989 and 91, was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 2015 and is known as a strong recruiter and coach.
“It’s still unreal,” the gregarious, charismatic Patrick told the Miami Herald in April 2015 at the Hall of Fame ceremony. “I’ve been honored as an All-American … national championships. … This is probably the biggest honor I’ve ever received.
“This is the best of the best in not only college football, but pro football in a sense, too. … I’m still living like I’m back in the 1989 through ’93 years.”
Patrick, who is married and has daughters ages 15 and 12, is listed by USA Today as having made $350,000 at North Carolina State in 2017. Kuligowski made $362,500 at Missouri his last season there in 2015, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and got a raise at UM, though Miami is a private school and does not disclose its salaries.
Alabama, for those wondering, paid former defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, who was just hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers, $275,000 this past season — the lowest salary among Nick Saban’s assistants.
Patrick coached the defensive line for nine seasons at USF, two at North Texas, one at Texas Tech in 2016 and then NC State, where he helped mentor Bradley Chubb, who is the only Atlantic Coast Conference player since 2000 to twice have seasons of more than 50 tackles, 20-plus tackles for loss and more than 10 sacks.
“Kevin Patrick was the first name I thought of when I saw the news,” said former UM defensive line coach Greg Mark, whose senior year in 1989 was Patrick’s first year. “Talk about a guy from UM who played there and understands the culture. He’s a high-energy, high-enthusiasm guy and really shows the kids that he cares about them. That, with his knowledge base and experience, makes him a great candidate.”
Added South Florida recruiting expert Larry Blustein, who covered Patrick when he played at Lake Worth High and UM: “He’s a very strong recruiter and he’s made a lot of friends along the way. The guy played the game, he’s still in great shape and when you meet him he’s just kind of infectious — an “I-wanna-kick-his-[butt] kind of guy. He’s a lot like Coach Kool, actually.”
Blustein also knows the other name being tossed around as a potential candidate: Plantation native, former FAU coach and current Pitt defensive line coach Charlie Partridge.
Partridge recently interviewed for the Alabama job that Kuligowski is getting. He coached at FAU from 2014-16 before Lane Kiffin took over, and before that was at Arkansas, Wisconsin, Pitt and Eastern Illinois coaching defense and special teams.
Pitt’s red zone defense was ranked 21st nationally this past season.
“You talk about recruiters,” Blustein said. “FAU wasn’t his fault. He just didn’t have the kids. He’s great with the players and really good in the living room when he talks to parents.’’
The Hurricanes had a defensive line this past season that helped UM rank No. 1 nationally in sacks (44), No. 3 in tackles for loss (111), No. 3 in turnovers gained (31) and 28th in scoring defense (21 points allowed per game).