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Kruczek fired with two games remaining

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Despite a career winning record, along with 19 years of service to the school as an assistant coach and head coach and a solid offensive design, Mike Kruczek was fired Monday by Central Florida.

Kruczek will be replaced, on an interim basis, by assistant head coach Alan Gooch. The Knights are 3-7, 2-4 (Mid-American Conference) in 2003 and have two games remaining, against Marshall, on Nov. 19 and Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 28.

Gooch, who said he would apply for the permanent job,
acknowledged it has been a tough week for the program.

"It has been a little bit of a ride," he said. "But again,
how you handle adversity determines your success."

Kruczek had signed a three-year extension in April to keep him
at UCF through the 2007 season. The university agreed to pay the
remainder of his contract, about $185,000 for each of the next four
years.

In six seasons as head coach, Kruczek, who served 13 years as offensive coordinator before being elevated to the top spot, posted a 36-30 record. He has winning marks in four of the past five years, including three straight winning seasons, prior to this one.

The colorful Kruczek, who played four seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1976-79), recruited Daunte Culpepper, now with the Minnesota Vikings, and that move certainly upgraded the school's football fortunes. Last year, Kruczek came very close to landing the head coach vacancy at Kentucky.

While the dismissal of Kruczek will be tied to the team's failures this season on the field, ESPN.com has learned there was disagreement between the coach and athletic director Steve Orsini over academics. Several key players, including standout quarterback Ryan Schneider, were suspended this season. (Another player, cornerback Omar Laurence, was suspended
indefinitely pending criminal charges that he brought a gun on campus.)

A rule instituted this season required players to have professors sign absence vouchers before they went on the road for games and Schneider acknowledged recently that he had forged the signature of one professor. Sources said that Schneider also implicated other players who did not have the vouchers signed.

The school has very high academic standards and, sources said, one of the issues between the football staff and administrators was the perception there was insufficient support for players in the classroom. It is likely that Kruczek, a proven quarterbacks coach and well-regarded offensive schemer, will attempt to land a job as an NFL assistant in 2004.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.