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Hughes hiring brings shuffling of assistants for Tiger football

Football head coach Roger Hughes will have to do a lot to turn around a program that finished 1-6 in Ivy League play, tied for last place in the conference.

First, he has to decide who's going to help him try.

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While the process of hiring and firing is far from over, some decisions have been made. Defensive line coach Steve DiGregorio, wide receivers coach Kirk Ciarrocca, and offensive coordinator Joe Susan are no longer with the program. Susan, who would have been in his ninth season as Princeton's offensive coordinator, has recently been hired as the offensive line coach at Memphis State.

Susan's colleague on the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Steve Verbit, is staying. Verbit came to Princeton after six years at Delaware, where he helped coach the Blue Hens to the Division II national championship in 1979. He has spent five years as defensive coordinator and 15 years as secondary coach at Princeton.

Hughes has also chosen to retain linebackers coach Don Dobes. Dobes, who helped Rowan University to the Division III national championship game in 1993, returns for his sixth season with the Tigers. Dobes coached at Penn from 1981-86, guiding the Quaker freshman team to a 15-3 record and eventually coaching the varsity linebackers before moving on to Rowan and Princeton.

Dobes cited several reasons for staying.

"I think we have a chance to be a successful program again and quite frankly I like the family atmosphere here," Dobes said. "I like the great relationship with the people on the team. I like to think that a lot of guys on the team feel they know who Don Dobes is."

Both Dobes and Verbit will stay on the defensive coaching staff, but their actual positions are yet to be determined.

Empty slots

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There are still two vacant positions on the coaching staff, one on offense and one on defense. The coaching staff has brought four candidates to campus for interviews and plans on bringing in four to six more for the two available positions. Once these positions are filled, the specific jobs of all the offensive and defensive coaches will be determined.

"What we're trying to do is find the combination of the best two people and the best two coaches," Dobes said.

Mastermind

The only job that has been determined for certain is that of newcomer Dave Rackovan, who will replace Susan at offensive coordinator. Rackovan was the running backs and special teams coach with Hughes at Dartmouth.

"He's a really good person," Dobes said. "He's been in two successful programs, one at Penn and one at Dartmouth, so he comes in with a lot of Ivy League background and experience."

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Rackovan coached at Penn for six years before joining the Dartmouth staff in 1992. He served as secondary coach for Penn from 1990-91 and coached the freshman team to an 18-6 record in the three seasons prior to that.

"He understands the needs of the Ivy League scholar-athlete and what it takes to be successful," Dobes said.

Rackovan's first coaching job was at Purchase Line High in Commodore, Pa., in 1976. The team had had only three winning seasons in the 25 years prior to his joining the staff. Seven years after being named head coach, he guided the team to a divisional title.

For a Princeton team that has gone without an Ivy League title since 1995, a similar reclamation effort will be necessary.

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