By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
Gabe Giardina, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Charleston Southern, has been named head coach at Albany State University, school officials announced Monday.
It will be the first head coaching job for Giardina, who was in the fifth season of his second stint at Charleston Southern. He was the special teams coordinator and running backs coach from 2008-2011. He was offensive coordinator at Delta State in 2012 before returning to Charleston Southern.
"We are going to be a bright light in this community that alums and community members will be proud of by the way our young men compete on the field and by the way they conduct themselves off the field," said Giardina, who also said he wants the Golden Rams to be "Albany's team."
"It is our goal that all our players have the type of experience that truly transforms their lives and puts them on a path to do the same for others, all while bringing home championships to southwest Georgia," he said.
Giardina's multiple offense led Charleston Southern to 36 wins over a four year period, most in that program's history. Charleston Southern won Big South Conference championships in 2015 and 2016 and was ranked 14th in the NCAA FCS Coaches Poll last season.
Giardina replaces Dan Land, a former assistant who took over the football program two years ago when longtime ASU head coach Mike White took the Benedict head coaching job. Land, had been an assistant at Albany State since 2002 and was a star running back for the Golden Rams in the 1980s.
His team went 6-4 in 2015 when when he was the interim head coach. He was given the permanent position in June 2016. ASU went 5-4 season in 2016. The Golden Rams lost their final game to Fort Valley State in a battle for a spot in the SIAC Championship Game.
Land, who served as ASU's athletic director in the past, will remain on the University's faculty.
Giardina is familiar with the state of Alabama as he was a student and graduate assistant for University of Alabama head coaches Mike Shula and Nick Saban. Giardina also played for the Crimson Tide from 2000-2003.
"Gabe did a great job for us at the University of Alabama, and we appreciate his contributions to the program," Saban said. "The characteristics that made him a good coach while he was here will make him a successful coach at Albany State and we wish him the best of luck."
More than 100 people applied for the position, with that number narrowed down to four recently. Athletics Director Sherie Gordon and President Art Dunning both said they found the right man. He also becomes the second white football coach at an SIAC school, joining the 2016 Coach of the Year John L. Smith of Kentucky State.
"We wanted a strong leader with a plan and genuine passion about the social and academic development of our young men," Gordon said. "We wanted someone committed to recruiting in the state and in the bordering states. We wanted someone who could connect with our student-athletes and engage positively with the University and the Albany community. We wanted a winner. We have found that person in Gabe Giardina."
Dunning added, "Having a head football coach who is committed to building character, promoting academics as a priority and working to ensure that our players graduate into meaningful careers aligns directly with our goal for student success. I am pleased to welcome Coach Giardina and his family into to Albany State University. I look forward to working with him to develop and sustain a winning football program on and off the field of play."