Vaught's Views: DiNardo says Kentucky football heading in right direction

September 18, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

It's not unusual for an opposing coach to lavish praise on an upcoming opponent. In fact, it's almost standard operating procedure for the most successful coaches.

Gerry DiNardo has always been a little different. He was when he was the head coach at Vanderbilt and then LSU. It hasn't changed since he took over at Indiana.

That's why his perspective on Kentucky football going into Saturday's game in Bloomington, Ind., against the Wildcats is worth examining.

Unlike some disappointed Big Blue fans that expected the Cats to be 3-0 today and on their way to a bowl game, DiNardo continues to see improvement in Kentucky's football program. Maybe not in this year's won-lost record, but in the overall progress of the program even though Kentucky has its third head coach in the last four years.

"I see the institution progressing. Sometimes it isn't always about people, and I think people misunderstand that," said DiNardo. "I can remember when I played my first game against Kentucky in 1990 or 1991 and last season in 2002. I can tell you regardless of who the coach is, the stadium's bigger, the facilities are improved, it's big-time college athletics.


"They have gone through a transformation in a positive way for their institution. They have been through three coaches, and they will go through three more coaches. That university has made a decision to transform their football program and, in my opinion, have been successful in doing so."

He sees commitment to making football a winning program

Instead of seeing a loss to Louisville three weeks ago, DiNardo sees expanded

Commonwealth Stadium, the indoor training facility and upgraded pay for the coaching staff when he looks at Kentucky. He sees an administration finally committed to making football a winning program.

"I have seen a significant change since I first saw a Kentucky team play," DiNardo said. "I have been through their facilities. I have recruited against them. I don't think money is an object there.

"They have made the decision not to let money be an object when they decided to build a football program. It's pretty impressive."

That "impressive" word is one that UK President Lee Todd and Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart want many others to eventually use when they describe Kentucky football. They realize it will not be an overnight transformation, but as DiNardo noted, pieces have been put in place to help UK succeed in football.

DiNardo also thinks Brooks and offensive coordinator Ron Hudson have adapted better to UK's returning personnel than many fans and media members (yes, count me in that group) believe.

"They went to a theme of a little bit more of a pro-type attack (than a year ago)," DiNardo said. "This is what they have done at Kansas State with a great deal of success. But this offense is tailored to their personnel. They are being very smart.

"Ron Hudson is an outstanding coach and so is Brooks. They ultimately want to do what Kansas State has done, but they are smart enough to know they can't do that right away."

Which eventually could fit perfectly into the rest of the plan DiNardo sees that Kentucky has in place.

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