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Gattuso completes staff

By Bob Weiner
Friday, January 17, 2014

New University at Albany head football coach Greg Gattuso has begun to round out his staff, and he named four new assistants this week: Bob Benson, Joe Bernard, Bernard Clark, and Jim Sweeney. Both Clark and Sweeney played in the NFL.

“Coach Gattuso has hired assistants with extensive experience who will reinforce the core values of excellence in academics, athletics and leadership at UAlbany,” said athletic director Lee McElroy in a press release.

“They are all outstanding coaches, but more importantly they are great role models and outstanding people,” said Gattuso. “I know them very, very well and they know me. I have a deep trust in all of them.”

Benson will serve the role of defensive coordinator and will also work with the defensive backs. Benson started his coaching career as a graduate student at UAlbany under Bob Ford’s tutelage in 1986-87. Since then, he has been on staff at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (1988-89), Johns Hopkins (1990-93), and was the head football coach at Georgetown University from 1993 to 2005. There, he compiled a career record of 72-64, earning MAAC Coach of the Year honors twice, and led the initiative to upgrade the Hoyas to the Patriot League.

In 2006 and 2007, Benson held the position of defensive coordinator at Towson University, where the Tigers finished second in the CAA for scoring defense. Benson comes to UAlbany after spending the last six seasons (2008-13) as the associate head football coach and defensive coordinator at the Colorado School of Mines. He helped pilot the Orediggers to a 47-19 regular season record, including a bid to the NCAA Division II playoffs in 2010.

Bernard joins Gattuso’s staff as the offensive coordinator and running backs coach. Bernard comes to UAlbany with 11 years of experience as a defensive coordinator at the FCS level, as well as hefty high school and college head coaching experience. Bernard began his coaching career at Nazareth Area High School in Pennsylvania where was on staff from 1985-1996, helping lead the squad to four league championships and two district championships. As the head coach (1990-95), he compiled a 37-28-1 record.

From there, Bernard joined Fairfield University’s coaching staff from 1996 to 2002. Serving as the defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator, the Stags captured the 1998 MAAC Championship. Bernard was elevated to the position of head coach for the 2001 and 2002 seasons.

In 2003, Bernard joined Gattuso’s staff at Duquesne as the defensive and special teams coordinator. During his seven-year tenure, the Dukes won a Mid-Major National Championship, had the top ranked defense in the FCS, and won five straight MAAC titles (2003-07). Bernard met up with Gattuso again as a member of the University of Pittsburgh staff from 2009-11. As the strength assistant, Bernard helped the Panthers to an 18-8 record, two bowl victories, and a 2010 Big East title.

Clark, a former NFL linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Seattle Seahawks, will take on the role of assistant head coach and linebackers coach for the Great Danes.

As a player, Clark won two national championships with the Miami Hurricanes and was named the 1987 Orange Bowl MVP. Earning a Bachelor of Business Administration, Clark went on to play three seasons in the NFL and two in the AFL before entering the coaching world. Clark began his collegiate coaching career at James Madison University, where he trained the defensive ends for two seasons (1998-99). He then moved to Liberty University, serving as linebackers coach and oversaw special teams from 2000-03.

Clark had two stints at Florida International University (FIU), initially serving as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach during the 2004 and 2005 seasons. He then spent a year in the Big East Conference at the University of South Florida, coaching the Bulls' defensive line in 2006, as they made an appearance in the PaprJohns.com Bowl Game. Clark returned to FIU for the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

In 2009, Clark served as Hampton University’s defensive coordinator before leaving to become Pitt’s linebackers coach in 2010. The Panthers’ defense finished in the top-10 of the FBS that season. Clark spent the 2011 season as the linebackers coach at Colorado State before returning to Hampton for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

Sweeney, a 16-season veteran of the NFL, will serve as UAlbany’s offensive line coach. Sweeney was a four-year standout on the offensive line at Pitt (1980-84) where he earned a B.S. in sociology and administrative justice. A second round pick in the 1984 draft, Sweeney was named to the All-NFL Rookie Team after his first season with the New York Jets. Playing 11 seasons with the Jets with 158 consecutive starts, Sweeney was named to the All-Time Four Decades Team and is still referenced as one of the most consistent centers in franchise history. Sweeney also played one season with the Seattle Seahawks and closed his career with four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

From 2000 to 2002, Sweeney was a member of Gattuso’s staff at Duquesne where he coached the offensive line that helped produce two 1,000-yard running backs in a pass-oriented offense. Sweeney then went on to coach eight seasons at the high school level in Pennsylvania.

UAlbany will announce the remainder of the 2014 football staff at a later date.

 

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