Merritt James Norvell III is an American college football coach and former player. He is the head football coach at Colorado State University, a position he has held since the 2022 season. Norvell served as the head football coach at the University of Nevada, Reno from 2017 to 2021. His father, Merritt Norvell, was the athletic director at Michigan State University from 1995 to 1998.
Norvell played college football at the University of Iowa from 1982 to 1985 and professionally in the National Football League (NFL) as a linebacker with the Chicago Bears for one season, in 1987.
His coaching career began at his alma mater Iowa in 1986 when Norvell took a job as a graduate assistant. From 1988 to 2001, Norvell served as an assistant coach for multiple positions at Northern Iowa, Wisconsin, and Iowa State. Norvell briefly spent time in the NFL as an assistant coach from 2002 to 2006 with the Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raiders before returning to college football at the University of Nebraska to take his first ever offensive coordinator job in 2004. At Nebraska, he helped guide quarterback Zac Taylor to win Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors and break several school passing records.
Norvell spent a season as the offensive coordinator at UCLA in 2007, and then served as the assistant offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Oklahoma from 2008 to 2010 before being promoted to co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach in 2011. Norvell remained at Oklahoma until 2015, when he was hired as the wide receivers coach at the University of Texas, where he held play calling duties. Norvell then spent the 2016 season as the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator at Arizona State before landing his first head coaching job with Nevada in 2017.
In 2017, Norvell was named head coach for the Nevada football program. The team struggled during Norvell's first year, going 3–9 in 2017. However, Norvell helped the team rebound the next season, with Nevada going 8–5 in 2018, including a 16–13 overtime victory in the 2018 Arizona Bowl over Arkansas State. Nevada posted winning records in 2019, 2020, and 2021 as well, and Norvell finished his tenure at Nevada recording a winning record in four of his five seasons. Norvell also led Nevada quarterback Carson Strong to back-to-back Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year awards in 2020 and 2021. Norvell left Nevada to go to Colorado State.
On December 6, 2021, Colorado State hired Norvell to be their 24th head coach. Norvell's pass-heavy offensive style came as a stark contrast to previous head coach Steve Addazio's run-heavy smashmouth offense.