Roc Bellantoni was once considered the frontrunner to take over for longtime Eastern Illinois head coach Bob Spoo, but when Spoo retired two years ago, the FCS power went in a different direction, shaking the defensive coach loose. Villanova was in the midst of a coaching shakeup of its own on the defensive side of the ball. The Wildcats brought Bellantoni on-board to coach the defensive line and special teams.
VUhoops has now confirmed that Bellantoni will take a similar position with the Florida Atlantic University Owls, under head coach Charlie Partridge. The move was first reported by CoachingSearch.com.
Newly-hired Owls head coach Charlie Partridge was the defensive line and special teams coach under Bellantoni, when the latter was in his previous tenure as EIU's defensive coordinator for a decade. The fit for Bellantoni is clear — his expertise is in recruiting the fertile state of Florida for talent, right in FAU's backyard. It is an area that is key for FAU to succeed in recruiting, but one that Partridge is likely unfamiliar with.
In his first season at Villanova, Bellantoni had four of his players receive All-CAA honors, including defensive linemen Antoine Lewis, Rakim Cox (both First-Team), and Marlon Johnson (Second Team), and punt returner Poppy Livers (Third Team). His impressive track record at EIU saw a defense that led the nation in turnovers in 2006, and his teams made six playoff appearances.
FAU is located in Boca Raton and has landed in Conference USA after the latest round of conference shifting ended. Former Miami, Louisville, Oklahoma and Baltimore Colts coach Howard Schnellenberger founded the program in 2001, jumping from I-AA to I-A after just four seasons, and he led the program there until 2011. The program is 67-88 all-time in program history, going to two bowl games (in 2007 and 2008). They play in the 29,419-seat FAU Stadium on-campus.
As news of the popular coach's departure broke, both former and current Villanova football players took to Twitter to share their reaction to Coach Roc's move:
Good luck @CoachRoc !!— Norm White (@Stormin8Norman) December 21, 2013
Thank you for everything @CoachRoc! Long live the angry birds!— Austin Calitro (@Ayee_See) December 21, 2013
@CoachRoc good luck out there, hope all goes well— JCenSEIS \\V// (@JCen3) December 21, 2013
Don't worry @CoachRoc we will still be the angriest of birds here at the \\V//— Burke (@TheReal_CheddaB) December 21, 2013
Whenever a popular coach heads elsewhere (as made famous by the outburst from Notre Dame players over Bob Diaco's move to UConn last week), the initial sting can be harsh.
@AlcaTreyIsland8 Don't be mad. Do great things and make me proud!— Roc Bellantoni (@CoachRoc) December 21, 2013
Andy Talley and the Villanova Athletic department will now begin the search to fill the gap left by Bellantoni's departure - an important position considering the success that Villanova's special teams experienced and the departures of mainstays Antoine Lewis and Rakim Cox to graduation.