As the sun set on Miller Stadium Saturday afternoon and the shadows crept up the yard markers like a halfback racing past defenders, IUP fans witnessed the end of an era.

Indians coach Frank Cignetti, who has roamed the sidelines for the past 20 seasons at IUP, will not be returning next week – or next year for that matter. For the coach who led IUP to more postseason games than any of his Division II colleagues ever did for their respective teams, this was it.

“It has been a hectic week,” Cignetti said. “I wanted the game to be the focus this week. The players handled it extremely well, and I am proud of them.”

Cignetti didn’t get the chance to ride off into the sunset with a 15th PSACWest championship or even victory No. 200, but that was fine with him.

“It would have been great,” he said. “It meant something to the players, but what’s the difference between 199 and 200? Two hundred wouldn’t change my feelings about this experience.”

“There are a lot off things more important than winning football games. It’s all about your relationships,” Cignetti said. “When we’re young in this business as players and coaches, we have egos. Thank God that you acquire some wisdom along the way and really understand what it’s all about.”

Cignetti couldn’t stop praising the players on the current and former IUP squads and how much they mean to him. The players felt the same way and let their coach know it.

After the Indians 38-23 setback to California, IUP players presented Cignetti with a special gift. In a somber, very emotional locker room, the Indians gave Cignetti a glass-framed No. 20 jersey with his name on the back of it. The number symbolized the coach’s tenure in years, not his jersey number.

“My number was 86 when I was here,” Cignetti said, “but Jim Haslett’s number was 86. Jim Haslett’s number has been retired so... “

Cignetti mentioned numerous people who have helped him through the years, but current Florida State and former West Virginia head coach Bobby Bowden stood out.

“Bobby Bowden has probably had the greatest influence on me,” Cignetti said. “I thought I would never leave Princeton. Those kids played because they loved to play. (Bowden) offered me a job, and I must have turned it down three times. I told him no twice and the third time the moving van was coming to get our furniture.”

“That was the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” he continued. “Coach Bowden is a great man, a great Christian, a great family man and an outstanding football coach. He has had more influence on my life as a man, a Christian and a coach. He is such a special person. I was lucky and fortunate.”

Cignetti said the decision to retire has been in the making for some time.

“I have been kicking this around for about three years,” he said. “It was always ‘Wait and see how I feel’ and then make that decision. I probably very seriously thought about getting out in June of this year, but because of some off-the-field problems here in the spring, I thought it’d be best if I came back for the fall.”

With no more football to worry about, Cignetti said he doesn’t have any “concrete plans” for his future. As for the present, well it starts today, and Cignetti is prepared for that.

“I’m going to relax, spend time with my grandkids and probably cut the grass,” the coach said.

The sun has set on a great career for Frank Cignetti and an equally impressive era of IUP football. Cignetti doesn’t regret a thing.

“IUP has been good to me,” Cignetti said. “It was a big decision when we decided to come here, and thank God I came.”

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