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Archive for Sunday, April 28, 2002

Rebuilding nothing new for Quartaro

April 28, 2002

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Nick Quartaro has been through this before.

Twice.

Kansas University's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach helped turn around losing football programs at Kansas State and Iowa State. Now he'll try to earn a hat trick at his third Big 12 Conference school.

Quartaro was exactly what head coach Mark Mangino was looking for when Mangino was putting together his first staff last winter.

"I wanted to find people who wanted to be at Kansas," said Mangino, whose team wrapped up spring drills Friday night at Memorial Stadium. "I believe we were successful in that area. I wanted coaches who knew we were going to be on the ground floor of a program that had been down a little bit."

Quartaro is no stranger to the ground floor. He was an original member of Bill Snyder's staff at Kansas State in 1989. KSU had two winning seasons in the 34 years before Snyder arrived.

Snyder had the Wildcats winning within three years, and they played in a bowl game in his fifth season.

"Going in on the ground floor with coach Snyder was a great experience and a learning tool for me," said Quartaro, who served five years at KSU. He was promoted to assistant head coach during his second year in Manhattan and associate head coach in his third. "He had a terrific plan, and he followed it through to dotting all the I's and crossing all the T's."

Snyder's team has played in nine straight bowl games, winning five.

Things didn't happen as quickly for coach Dan McCarney at Iowa State.

In 1995, McCarney took over an ISU program that had endured five straight losing seasons and proceeded to endure five more. But Iowa State was patient with McCarney, and the Cyclones have produced back-to-back bowl seasons.

"I know he had a plan, but it didn't all come together for him at the same timetable that he had hoped," said Quartaro, who worked at ISU as assistant head coach from 1998 through last season, "but eventually it did, and I stuck with him. Thank goodness everything worked out well."

After Quartaro left Kansas State, he became head coach at Fordham (1994-97). He was previously head coach at Drake (1986-88).

So why leave a winning team like ISU to take on another rebuilding job?

"All coaches are competitive," he said. "Some are builders or the kind of guys that can maintain a good level of a really solid, established program. Others kind of jump around and stay a step ahead of the sheriff.

"In my case, I take pride when you get something turned like a major-college football program, which is no easy task. It is a major accomplishment, especially for someone like myself who would like to run the show on the 1A level, whereas I've done it on a lower level. The best thing you can do is be an integral part of a major turnaround as a senior assistant."

Mangino hopes Quartaro can do it again.

"When Mark called to see what kind of interest I'd have here, he said, 'Hey, you've been through it a number of times, and it takes a lot out of you. Do you still have enough juice to try it again and start from scratch?' I said, 'Yes, I do,'" said the 47-year-old aide.

Quartaro sees some major differences between the monumental challenges taken on by Snyder and McCarney and the one facing Mangino.

Iowa State and Kansas State both remodeled their stadiums and other facilities during the rebuilding process. KU has already given Memorial Stadium a $30 million facelift, upgrading the 82-year-old stadium between 1997 and 2000.

Kansas also plans to complete the $8 million, 42,000-square foot Anderson Family Strength and Conditioning Center next spring.

"I think there's more in place up front here coming in and the fact and I think this is important that this program was successful not so long ago, whereas you look at the other two and you say, when was the last bowl game either of these guys had prior to recent success?" he said.

McCarney and Snyder had their share of detractors early in their tenures, and many fans and members of the media doubt KU's team can be turned into a winner after six straight losing seasons.

"I'm here to say that it can," Quartaro said.

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