BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – It’s common knowledge that NCAA President Mark Emmert likes and respects Alabama coach Nick Saban. As the LSU chancellor, Emmert hired Saban as head coach in 1999.
So it was no surprise Tuesday night during ESPN’s Outside the Lines report on Penn State when Emmert complimented Saban for the job he did with the LSU football program off the field.
But in complimenting Saban, Emmert also slammed the man Saban replaced as head coach in Baton Rouge, Gerry DiNardo, without naming him.
Outside the Lines host Bob Ley started this segment of their longer exchange by reminding Emmert that, when he hired Saban, he said this: “Simply put, success in LSU football is essential for the success of Louisiana State University.” Ley asked Emmert how that philosophy squared with his stated intention to keep football in balance.
“It all depends on how you define success,” Emmert said. “At the time Nick Saban came in, we had the lowest graduation rate in the SEC. By the time he left, it was one of the highest graduation rates in the SEC.
“We had young men getting in all kinds of off-the-field problems before he showed up. By the time he left, we had virtually none of those.”
DiNardo, now a college football analyst for the Big Ten Network, took to Twitter later Tuesday night to object to Emmert’s statement.
“Yes, we had problems,” DiNardo said in one tweet, “but what he said about academics was flat-out inaccurate.”
Another DiNardo tweet: “As a result of my time at LSU, football was recognized for a 70 percent graduation rate by the College Football Association for the first time in school history, contrary to what Mark Emmert said.”
DiNardo tweeted that LSU received that award in 2001, “which reflects the academic success of my first class.” He said “the next time” LSU earned that award was in 2010.
“What I’m saying is that I raised the football graduation at LSU to the highest in their history at that point,” DiNardo wrote, “and I’m proud of it.”