Nov. 30, 1999
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Nick Saban, who guided Michigan State to its first nine-win regular season (9-2) since 1966, was introduced as Louisiana State?s new head football coach at a press conference in Baton Rouge, La., Tuesday afternoon. He replaces Gerry DiNardo, who was dismissed after back-to-back losing seasons (4-7 in 1998 and 2-8 in ?99).
Saban informed Spartan players of his decision to leave at a 7:30 a.m. team meeting.
?This was a most difficult decision to make,? Saban said. ?The hardest thing for me was telling the players. I have a lot of close personal relationships with the players and I couldn?t help but get emotional in telling them the news. We?ve built something together here and I appreciate the sacrifices the players have made.?
Tenth-ranked Michigan State, which finished tied for second in the final Big Ten Conference standings, has accepted an invitation to play in the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando Jan. 1, 2000. It marks Michigan State?s first New Year?s Day bowl appearance since it played Georgia in the 1989 Gator Bowl. The Spartans will face Alabama, Florida or Tennessee from the Southeastern Conference. The Florida Citrus Bowl?s SEC representative will be announced Dec. 5.
?I can?t honestly tell you how this decision will affect the team in its preparation for the Florida Citrus Bowl,? Saban said. ?This team has shown a lot of character all year long and it has overcome a lot of adversity.?
Saban reportedly signed a five-year contract, with an annual income of $1.2 million.
?I didn?t make this decision based on money but this was an opportunity that was too tough to turn down,? Saban said. ?It?s difficult to leave Michigan State because of all the friendships that I?ve developed here and the community has been so supportive.?
?Nick Saban did an outstanding job this season in leading Michigan State to a 9-2 record, a Top 10 national ranking and a New Year?s Day Bowl bid,? Michigan State Athletics Director Clarence Underwood said. ?He has put this football program back on solid ground and I appreciate all of his hard work. I wish Coach Saban the best of luck at LSU.
?The most pressing question is who will coach Michigan State in the bowl game. The timing is difficult but I will work closely with President (Peter) McPherson and we will make a decision that is in the University?s best interest.?
Michigan State?s acting head coach will be introduced at a team meeting scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.