Sam Bernardi returned to the Valparaiso sidelines for the second time in his career prior to the 2006 season. A member of the Crusader coaching staff from 1991-2004, he stepped away from the game of football for the 2005 season.
The Crusaders’ defensive coordinator, Bernardi also oversees the linebacking corps on a daily basis for the Brown and Gold. He was promoted to associate head coach in 1999 after being named the defensive coordinator beginning in the 1995 season. In addition, Bernardi serves as the program’s recruiting coordinator.
Bernardi’s defensive corps ranked 11th in the nation in pass defense in 2008, allowing just 158.1 yards per game through the air. The Crusaders also had a Pioneer Football League-leading 17 interceptions on the season.
In 2007, Bernardi’s defense ranked 12th nationally among all NCAA Division I-FCS schools averaging 2.73 sacks per game. In addition, the Brown and Gold held opponents to just 123.3 yards per game on the ground, 20th best in the country.
Bernardi’s defense played an integral role during Valpo’s Pioneer Football League championship seasons of 2000 and 2003. The 2003 defense led the league in sacks and ranked third in pass efficiency defense. In 2004, Valpo led the PFL in passing defense.
Throughout his tenure on the staff, Valpo’s defense has been dominant. The Crusaders led the PFL in total defense and rushing defense in 2000, while the 1999 squad tied for the top spot in NCAA I-AA in turnover margin. That same season, Valparaiso led the PFL in rushing defense while the 1998 team led the league in total defense, turnover margin, and pass efficiency defense.
Prior to being named the defensive coordinator, Bernardi guided the secondary and special teams for the Brown and Gold for four seasons. He had a major impact in the area of special teams, which enjoyed success each year. In 1993, the special teams scored four touchdowns, three of which came after blocked punts.
Bernardi arrived at Valpo after assisting at Valparaiso High School from 1988-1990, where he tutored the defensive ends, tight ends, and helped with special teams.
He graduated from Indiana University in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sports marketing and management. Sam and his wife, Heidi, have two children, Sam IV, born in 1999, and Sydney, born in 2001.