Bad Blood Surges In Formerly Routine Meeting
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ Forget Florida. Never mind Mississippi State. No time for arguments about Alabama.
This week, at LSU, the only subject is Vanderbilt.
That’s right, the 0-3, unranked Commodores.
``We know they’re coming in here to prove something. They want to beat us, and they want to beat us bad,″ said running back Rondell Mealey.
Emotions don’t usually run high when Vanderbilt visits LSU. After all, the schools have met in only 24 games in more than 100 years.
And, it’s been 45 years since the last Vanderbilt victory in Tiger Stadium.
The emotional baggage was added when Gerry DiNardo, Vanderbilt’s coach from 1991 to ’94, left the Commodores for LSU.
DiNardo, along with four assistants, left Vanderbilt so fast he reportedly did not even return to clean out his desk. He certainly did not say goodbye to his players.
``This game is just as important as any other game we play. It just has the added incentive because of Coach DiNardo being our former coach,″ said Vanderbilt tight end Marcus E. Williams.
In fact, Williams acknowledged a few players recruited by DiNardo might have a personal vendetta they want to settle with their former coach.
``For myself, this is a really big game, a game I could be able to show my talent,″ he said.
DiNardo said he asked to say goodbye to his players but then-Vanderbilt athletic director Paul Hoolahan never gave him permission. Why?
``I’m still waiting to hear,″ DiNardo said this week.
DiNardo’s move is definitely a motivation factor, LSU safety Greg Hill said, for both teams.
``They’re probably getting psyched up right now, thinking `Coach DiNardo’s there and he should be here,‴ Hill said. ``We should be doing the same thing because he’s here and he brought some magic back to LSU so we should want to return the favor.″
Also lingering is a resolution of DiNardo’s contract buyout. Vanderbilt wants $282,000, DiNardo is offering about $100,000.
``My legal situation obviously has nothing to do with this game,″ DiNardo said. ``And I can honestly say to you that I don’t think of it anymore this week than I do any other week.″
But worst of all, from the LSU perspective, Vanderbilt is the only school that refused to allow LSU to wear its beloved white jerseys at home this year.
LSU wore white jerseys for home games from 1957 until 1982, the period generally considered the most successful for the football program. The school petitioned to be allowed to wear them again.
The NCAA ruled that a home team could wear white jerseys if it got approval from its opponents before the season. Vanderbilt was the only school to refuse.
``The last time I saw, the visiting team wore white,″ said Vanderbilt coach Rod Dowhower. ``We’re just going by the rules.″
The Bengal Belles, a women’s support group for LSU athletics founded by DiNardo’s wife Terri, is pushing ``White Out Vandy,″ a campaign to get the crowd to wear white to the game since their team can’t.