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Sunday, May 19
The Indiana Daily Student


'Passionate' Dinardo has seen it all

IU head coach prepares for spring practice, putting team on map

He's not much of a golfer. Even though he says you couldn't tell, he does jog every now and then. He went to high school with New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and had Torre's sister as a teacher in the seventh grade, but his interest in baseball has grown only with his son's involvement with the game.\nOh, and he enjoys the game of football.\nIU, this is your head football coach. This is who he is and what he wants in his own words. \nGerry DiNardo considers himself a "passionate" football coach who focuses all of his attention upon the student-athlete, which he believes in in danger of disappearing. \n"If we're not doing something for (student-athletes), then what are we doing here?" he said. "It's not about money, it's not about fame, it's not about anything but we exist for them."\nOff the field, he's a family man, despite living alone out of a hotel at the moment. But the inside of a hotel room is nothing new to the football coach.\nDiNardo is a well-traveled man. After his All-American days as a guard at Notre Dame, his coaching career took him from Maine to Michigan to Colorado to Tennessee to Louisiana to Alabama. He's seen it all. \nHe said he has made visits to a house in nearly every state in the union. He'll tell you the phrase "football is a religion in the south" couldn't be more true. He'll also tell you for a while, it was tough to get a win.\nAs an assistant at Maine, Eastern Michigan and Colorado, nine of the first 10 seasons of his coaching career were losing ones, compiling a 26-78-1 record. At times, he wasn't even sure if he was going to have a job. \n At Colorado, he and the rest of then-coach Bill McCartney's staff expected their walking papers at any moment after going 1-10 in the third year of McCartney's five-year contract.\n "The athletic director came in and put something on (McCartney's) desk, and he felt for sure it was his buyout or his walking papers, and it was an extension," DiNardo said. "How do you extend the coach who had just won one game in the third year of a five year contract? I'd be hard pressed to see if that would happen anywhere in America nowadays. We were all shocked." \nThat athletic director might have received the award for most brilliant move in college football. If he would not have extended McCartney's and the rest of the staff's contracts, Colorado might not have been national champions two years later. \nAfter serving as offensive coordinator/offensive line coach for seven seasons and working with the defensive line and offensive tackles at Colorado, DiNardo became the boss at Vanderbilt -- where he won five games in his first season after the program won two games in two years -- and then at Louisiana State -- winning the Southeastern Conference's western division two years in a row. He even dabbed into the XFL for its brief stint. \nNow, it's his turn at the helm of an IU football program that hasn't been to a bowl since 1993. \nDiNardo hasn't seen much, but he hasbeen neither overjoyed nor completely disappointed with what he has viewed so far.\n"We have good people in our program. The prior staff can be proud about that," DiNardo said. "I think we're out of shape. We have a long way to go. We need to redefine what Big Ten conditioning is and getting our players a sense of that.\n"Other than that, I couldn't tell you what our skills are in relation to the game." \nFor the next 15 spring practices, the first being 11 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium, DiNardo and his staff will implement a brand new style of Hoosier football that consists of a west coast offense and a more active offensive line. NCAA regulations state that DiNardo is only allowed four hours each day with his team to introduce his new strategies, so he said those are going to be four hours well-spent in a "camp atmosphere."\n"If we take four hours of their time, they'll have 20 hours of each day to study, so we're not taking any of their study time. We're taking four hours of their leisure time," DiNardo said.\nTime that is going into DiNardo's push for national recognition of IU football, even though pessimistic fans could say otherwise. DiNardo expects that. He said he and his team must build the trust of the Hoosier faithful, placing no boundaries on how far he and his team may go. \nDiNardo's logic is the Hoosiers can have a wining season to send them to a bowl. If they have a winning season, they can win the Big Ten. If they win the Big Ten, they can go to the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl is in the Bowl Championship Series, which gives them an opportunity to play in the national championship game. \n"You can't tell anyone in the Big Ten conference you can't win a national championship without saying you can't win the Big Ten," he said.

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