BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's back-to-back losing seasons were the direct cause for his firing as head coach, Gerry DiNardo said. But the underlying reasons included injuries, quarterback problems, and players leaving because of personal or disciplinary problems.
And DiNardo has some advice for the coach that replaces him: Monitor recruiting more closely and fight for programs to improve academics for players.
"I probably would talk about recruiting quite a bit," DiNardo said Tuesday. "I would advise him to fight for programs, fight for the academic center to be improved, a life skills program."
After LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert and athletic director Joe Dean told DiNardo that a change of leadership was needed, DiNardo decided against coaching the Tigers' final game against Arkansas, preferring to leave immediately.
Over his final few weeks, DiNardo said, he had not taken some disciplinary steps he should have because he did not want any more negative publicity.
"I felt I had compromised a lot of my principles over the last month," DiNardo said Monday night. "Guys not going to class and being late to meetings, I haven't addressed in recent weeks like I have in the past. I let those things slide because I didn't want another crisis.
"So now the possibility of letting them totally do what they want for two weeks was not very appealing to me. It's a totally inappropriate way to be a leader. I was not interested in having a fake position. I refused to do that."
Had he monitored recruiting more closely, choosing players who would work academically as well as on the field, his program would have been more successful, DiNardo said.
"If I had graduated every player that I recruited, we would have had a winning season every year," DiNardo said.
Scholarship players leaving of their own accord or being released for disciplinary reasons cut into what analysts had said were several years of top recruiting. The program was left with 15 fewer scholarship players than the 85 allowed by the NCAA. Off the field, arrests and allegations of dealing with agents tarnished LSU's reputation.
Two seasons ago, DiNardo had guided the Tigers to three straight winning records and three bowl victories. His popularity was such that fans were asking that he be given a lifetime contract.
LSU opened 1997 3-0 and was ranked No. 6 nationally. But the Tigers lost seven of the last eight games.
This year LSU opened with two victories then lost eight games, the longest losing streak in school history.
The Tigers this year did not have running back Kevin Faulk and quarterback Herb Tyler to spark their offense. Three inexperienced quarterbacks were tried before Josh Booty became the starter. But Booty failed to become the solid player Tyler had been.
The offensive line was decimated by injuries, forcing inexperienced players into the lineup and shifting players to new positions.
Despite the problems, LSU came to within a play of beating three Top 15 teams this year. But the Tigers also lost 20-7 to Houston, a Conference USA team that is coming off two straight losing seasons.
"He was so close to getting the wins he needed. I was hoping things would turn around," Dean said. "I'm a big fan of Jerry's. I know how hard he worked. I was hoping the team would come together and we'd begin to win some games."
LSU has had seven coaches in the past 20 years, none lasting more than four years. Emmert said school officials hope to make a recommendation for a new coach at the Dec. 10 meeting of the LSU Board of Supervisors.
"I don't think there is one litmus test at all except we want to make sure that it is someone we have a great deal of confidence in," Emmert said. "Somebody who has demonstrated their ability to be successful in SEC caliber football. Someone who is well seasoned and we have great confidence can be successful in this the most competitive football conference."
DiNardo is unsure what he'll do now. He plans to become more involved in the operation of his Baton Rouge restaurant and said he had other ideas. He would only be interested in coaching again if he was offered a head coaching position.
"The first thing I'm going to do is sleep past 4 a.m.," DiNardo said. "And spend some time with my family."
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