Indiana's Gerry DiNardo on Boers & Bernstein


Terry Boers: We get a chance now to visit with a guy we haven't had a chance to talk to since he returned to the coaching wars at Indiana. Gerry DiNardo is on the line. Saturday they take on the Illini in Champaign. Gerry, how are you this morning?

Gerry DiNardo: I'm doing good, how are you?

Boers: We're doing well. Tell us as we start with you about your rebuilding process. Where are you guys at and how happy are you with the way things are?

DiNardo: You guys know you are never happy. We're better. We're certainly better, but I don't know if we are happy. We started with about 65 scholarships in our first year, and through the course of our third year we're at 85 and that certainly is a big step. Certainly stopping the bleeding if you will. We are still not a consistent team. We still don't always know how to finish a game. The psychology of losing and the psychology of winning is something that we have to deal with on a daily basis. But we are proud of our progress, and we feel good about our progress. We are just not the kind of team we want to be, yet.

Bernstein: I ask this question, not as a smart ass question, but more as a ...

Boers: It's rare though.

DiNardo: You know you're talking to one, that's why.

Bernstein: I know that, and as are you. You are talking to two of them. What is Indiana Football? I mean really, what is it? I'm 35 years old and I've never really had any idea what Indiana football is and can be and should be. What is it?

DiNardo: I can tell you what it is since January 8, 2002. I don't know that I can tell you what it was before that. I mean we're a team that is trying to build. We are a team that is trying to develop the talent that we have. Trying to attract talent like everybody else. Hopefully the talent that we attract is as good as our best players, or better than our best players. It's going to take a while to do that. We are in a very competitive conference. We certainly do not have a great history. We've lost more games than we have played in the history of our school. We do not have a winning record versus any of the other Big Ten schools. And on and on and on. We can run ourselves down. We can talk about it being a basketball school. We can talk about attendance and all of that, or we can say we are a team that is trying to build. We can look at perhaps the Kansas State's of the world and the Minnesotas and some of the teams that have taken a situation that historically has not been good and over the course of time has turned it into a good to outstanding college football program. Will we ever be one of the giants, traditional college football program? Probably not unless the three of us live to be 150 and we get 100 years to build, but we certainly can be an outstanding college football program. I don't think there is any doubt that any institution, in my opinion, that sets it's mind to do something, that has enough intelligent, bright people and resources on its campus can turn anything into something else. That is what we need to do.

Boers: So in other words, it is safe to say that this was by far the biggest challenge of your coaching career to date?

DiNardo: This has been mine, yes. For sure.

Boers: Because when you think about this, and as you point out when you really think ... and I don't think it was a wise ass question because if you started examining Indiana football and you look at the other schools that have been down a while, but even you can go back in history and look at say Minnesota, you can look at some glory years in the 60s and so forth. It is far more difficult to find with Indiana. I think there is one Rose Bowl appearance, is that right?

DiNardo: Without question. I believe to address the issues, to build a program, you have to look in the face of the brutal facts. The brutal facts are we do not have a very good history, and there is a reason for that. There is a reason we have a great business school. And there is a reason we do not have a great football history, but ignoring the history is not a way to address it. There is a reason those things have happened, and once we identify the reasons then we can identify how to change them and the change can occur.

Bernstein: So with the Illinois game, there is a chance for you to get a Big Ten road victory. How do you try to strike the right balance between building your players confidence about this particular opponent at this particular time and also making them aware of the danger of the proverbial wounded animal?

DiNardo: I think it's more about us. Obviously we are playing Illinois, and they are a Big Ten opponent. We all know the history there. We've played them for the last two years. This game is more about what we do, and not necessarily about who we are playing against. And until we become an established program that is pretty much our approach week in and week out. We conduct business pretty much the same every week regardless of who the opponent is, and regardless of our performance the week before because to me that is the first step. We've got to get this thing internally directed first, and not worry so much about what's happening externally, including our opponent. We will have our hands full every week regardless of who we are playing, regardless of what level the team is an NFL or the high school teams. We are going to have our hands full because we are just developing the program and we have a long way to go.

Boers: When you go out and recruit now, and Gerry I don't know exactly the guys that you talk to, and I don't know how you are doing. It seems like you are making progress. The area you are in with all the MAC schools and all the other schools around you, this has got to be a tough go. I don't know what your sales pitch is like, but I know you have a lot of sales man in you. I know your history indicates that, but what is your pitch to a kid?

Gerry: First of all, let's talk about who we are talking to. We are talking to peer recruits. We are talking to people that are in the same position that we are in, or a similar position. Now you can use your imagination to define who those schools are. We're in the hunt with the same people, the same recruits with other people in our same situation. Then it depends on who we are talking to. Is the business school very important to them? Is the location very important to them? Is the Big Ten very important to them? Is the offense very important to them? Our style of play? Is playing right away very important? I mean every prospect is different; much like every sale is different. As long as we are talking to the right group of people which is part of the recruiting process, a part that we do very well. Once we are talking to the right group, then we need to identify the right part of what we have to offer that attracts that person.

Bernstein: Well, I guess you wouldn't have taken the job if you thought that your bosses had unrealistic expectations about what the program could do. Because I know there are some coaches that get into situations with what looks like a good job, and then all of a sudden the big boosters with their Red Blazers and their tumbler full of bourbon and their red ring, they clap you on the back at some big gathering and they say, 'You know coach, why didn't you get this guy? Why can't we beat ... I've got friends calling me from other schools making me feel like crap. We've got to be better than this.' Do you still feel that you are in a position to satisfy the expectations of your bosses? Are they reasonable?

DiNardo: I think I have to tell you, I am on my third Athletic Director, and second President. So, that's been a little bit of a fluid situation to say the least. I think things are stable now with President Herbert and Rick Greenspan who is our Athletic Director, and I think as we go forward I can more understand and more define what our expectations are institutionally. That is a very difficult question for me to answer because...

Bernstein: They put you in a very uncomfortable position of not knowing whether or not you are doing well enough.

DiNardo: Well, there are very few people that do what I do that are in a very comfortable position. It's just what is making you most uncomfortable at the time. You could be winning, but you are in second place. You could have won the National Championship last year, but you are not doing. I mean it is really all relative, and very few people, maybe Pete Carroll, but I am sure he, I don't know who he is playing, but I'm sure he's worried about it. So, there is less than one percent that sit in a chair, in fact I am standing up now that I am talking to you guys my chair's gotten so uncomfortable. There are very few people that sit in these chairs that are comfortable. That's part of the business.

Boers: When I look around and I think about what could happen with this season with college coaches. A guy who could maybe only lose one or two games this year at Texas could be in trouble because he doesn't win the right game.

DiNardo: Exactly, that's a great example. I mean John Mackovic, when they fired him at Texas; I want to say that he won part of the Big XII or the old Southwest Conference three of the last four years he coached there. So again, it's all relative to the situations that we are in.

Bernstein: Is any coach happy?

DiNardo: Oh yeah. I think so. I'm happy.

Bernstein: Okay.

DiNardo: I don't want to do anything else. This is a kick. This is my passion. As much as we talk about this other stuff, no body makes me get up early and come to work. This is what I want to do. Without question, I think there are a lot of coaches happy. This is a wonderful profession, and I think most of them are very fortunate to be in it.

Boers: But nuts.

DiNardo: Without question.

Boers: Absolutely insane.

DiNardo: Okay, no question.

Boers: We wish you good luck. Again, you know you have to take it easy on the Illini because things aren't going well there. Be nice, could you do that Gerry?

DiNardo: You know I'm not going to answer that question, right?

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