Work in Sports
DiNardo out at LSU
University fires coach with four years left on contract
Posted: Tuesday November 16, 1999 12:16 AM
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- LSU head football coach Gerry DiNardo was fired Monday after eight straight losses and back-to-back losing seasons.
"We've concluded that a change of leadership is necessary," LSU chancellor Mark Emmert said at a news conference. DiNardo did not attend.
Assistant coach Hal Hunter will serve as interim head coach during the search for DiNardo's successor, Emmert said. LSU has one game left, Nov. 26 against Arkansas. Emmert hopes to make the recommendation for the new coach to the LSU Board of Supervisors on Dec. 10.
DiNardo, 46, met with Emmert and Dean on Monday, just two days after a 20-7 non-conference loss to Houston, the Tigers' eighth consecutive defeat.
Emmert described it as a very emotional meeting. He said DiNardo was given the option of staying until after the Arkansas game but decided to clean out his desk immediately.
"It had been our intention to make an announcement ... after the last game of the season," Emmert said. "But with the open date this week and only a single game remaining ... I concluded it was in the best interest of all concerned, and particularly in the long-term interests of the university to act now, rather than wait."
DiNardo will be paid for the final four years of his five-year contract. The contract reportedly was worth $585,000 per year. It was unclear whether he would have to be paid that entire amount, which includes $300,000 for radio and television appearances plus money for endorsements, or simply his base salary, roughly $150,000 a year.
DiNardo came to LSU in 1995 from Vanderbilt, replacing Curley Hallman who posted four consecutive losing seasons in a six-season losing streak. DiNardo said he wanted to "bring the magic back to Tiger Stadium."
And for a while, it appeared that he had. He posted a 26-9-1 record over his first three years, winning three bowl games and capturing two co-championships in the Southeastern Conference's western division in 1996 and 1997.
But the Tigers, rated by many as a pre-season favorite to win the SEC West in 1998, slid to a 4-7 record.
This season, the wheels came off -- both on the field, where losses mounted, and off the field, where scandal touched several team members.
"Basically, he just didn't win enough football games," Dean said. "He is a man of great integrity and great character. It's too bad he didn't have his losing seasons first and he three good years later."
With one conference game left, LSU is 0-7 in the SEC, has lost 14 of their last 15 league games, and is 2-8 for the year and has lost eight straight games for the first time in the school's history. A combination of near-misses against such SEC opponents as Mississippi State and Alabama and a lifeless performance against Houston on Saturday apparently sealed it for DiNardo.
"If he'd won those games, he'd still be the coach here," athletic director Joe Dean said. "No question about it, he was within three plays in those games and if he'd won them I'm sure they would have played better against Houston. Winning does that."
Off-field problems shadowed the team through much of the season. Senior receiver and co-captain Larry Foster was arrested for purse snatching and was found to have warrants for issuing worthless checks out against him. Senior cornerback Mark Roman and starting safety Clarence LeBlanc were ruled ineligible for alleged inappropriate contact with a sports agent.
Early this month, two current and two former LSU players were arrested after being investigated for illegal use of a telephone access code to make long distance calls. It was the third time LSU athletes have been implicated in that type of scam, the second time football players have been involved.
Also, there was the recent arrest of a man accused of bribery and violations of sports agent laws for allegedly offering money to an assistant coach and an academic counselor.
Police said Randall Menard, who implied he was representing William "Tank" Black, a prominent sports agent from Columbia, S.C., offered assistant coach Mike Haywood $30,000 or "whatever it takes" to help him sign nose guard Anthony McFarland before last spring's draft. Menard was also accused of offering $10,000 to LSU academic counselor Verge Ausberry to help convince Roman to forego his senior year and turn professional.
Recently, Kevin Faulk, LSU's all-time leading rusher, said Menard was a longtime friend who gave him thousands of dollars in gifts and cash while he played at LSU. Now a rookie with the New England Patriots, Faulk said the money was not meant to influence who represented him in contract negotiations. Black represented Faulk in negotiations with the Patriots. Black said he has no relationship with Menard, however.
The NFL players union has accused Black of using Menard to offer money to an LSU assistant coach in hopes of securing players. The union has accused Black of several violations and recommended that he be barred from NFL business for three years. Black is appealing.
DiNardo is a Brooklyn, N.Y., native who was a three-year starter at offensive right guard at Notre Dame under Ara Parseghian from 1972-74.
He began his coaching career as an assistant at Maine, moving on to assistant positions at Eastern Michigan and Colorado before heading to Vanderbilt. There, he earned SEC Coach of the Year honors after taking the Commodores, 1-10 the previous year, to 5-6 during the 1991 season. He compiled a 19-25 record at Vanderbilt before being tapped for the LSU job.