Mississippi State's Jackie Sherrill to retire at end of season

Updated: October 17, 2003, 8:19 PM ET

JACKSON, Miss. -- Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill will retire at the end of the season, ending speculation about the future of the school's winningest coach.

Sherrill posted a letter on the school's athletic Web site Friday, saying he told Mississippi State president Charles Lee and athletic director Larry Templeton about his decision earlier this week.

"I feel this advance notice gives the administration ample time to hire a new head football coach and make sure the football program continues to get back to where everyone wants it to be and it deserves to be," Sherrill wrote.

The Bulldogs are 2-4 heading into Saturday's game at Auburn and are coming off two straight three-win seasons. It is the worst stretch of Sherrill's 26-year career, which includes stops at Pittsburgh and Texas A&M.

Sherrill is in his 13th season at Mississippi State.

Sherrill and his team were traveling to Auburn on Friday night.

Templeton released a statement and said Sherrill told his players about his decision Friday.

"On behalf of the entire Mississippi State family, I express our sincere appreciation to him for the outstanding leadership and coaching job he has provided our football program during the past 13 years," wrote Templeton, who was also traveling to Auburn.

Mississippi State's recent failures have led to rampant speculation about the 59-year-old coach's future, though a current two-game winning streak has muffled some of the fans' grumbling.

The Bulldogs snapped a nine-game losing streak and a nine-game Southeastern Conference losing streak two weeks ago against Vanderbilt, then followed it up with a victory over Memphis.

Mississippi State has gone 8-21 overall and 2-15 in the Southeastern Conference since 2001.

The drastic downturn for the Bulldogs came on the heels of the program's greatest success. From 1997-2000, Sherrill guided Mississippi State to a 33-15 record that included an SEC West title in 1998 and a school-record 10 wins in 1999.

"When I took this job, I said that we deserve to win and we would win. We have experienced some of the greatest moments ever at Scott Field," Sherrill wrote. "We have been to the Liberty Bowl, the Peach Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, and the Independence Bowl, and, most importantly, had the thrill of participating in the SEC Championship game."

When Sherrill was hired by Mississippi State, he had been out of coaching for two years, following a messy end to his seven-year stint in College Station.

Sherrill was forced out at Texas A&M and soon after the Aggies were slammed with NCAA sanctions for dozens of violations committed under Sherrill's watch.

He was hired by Templeton and took over at Mississippi State in 1991. He immediately brought success to the perennially cellar-dwelling Bulldogs, taking them to a bowl game in his first season.

But his time in Starkville has not been without controversy.

In 1991, he caused a clamor by having a bull castrated in front of his players before a game against Texas.

The Bulldogs were placed on NCAA probation in 1995 for improper activities by boosters.

Mississippi State is currently being scrutinized by the NCAA again. The Bulldogs are awaiting word on an investigation into alleged violations by the football program from 1998-2002.

And there were many calling for Sherrill to be replaced during consecutive losing seasons in 1995 and 1996.

The resilient Sherrill, who coached Dan Marino during his days at Pittsburgh, weathered the tough times and in 2000 became the winningest coach in school history.

Sherrill is 75-69-2 at Mississippi State and 180-114-4 overall. He is fourth among active coaches in Division I-A in victories.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index