TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida A&M fired football coach Billy Joe and two assistants Tuesday, about two months before players report for practice.
The school cited NCAA rules violations in recruiting and eligibility as reasons the coaches were dismissed.
Also fired were assistant head coach-offensive coach Gregory Black and running backs coach Mario Allen.
The football program has had a series of problems recently, beginning with an ill-advised attempt to move up to Division I-A from Division I-AA. The move was canceled, and the Rattlers finished 3-8 as a I-AA independent last season. Florida A&M will return to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference this season.
Also last year, FAMU was stripped of MEAC championships from 2000 and 2001 after an investigation showed 196 NCAA rules violations throughout the athletic program.
Joe, 84-46 in 11 seasons at FAMU, has a career record of 237-108-4 in 31 seasons.
"There's going to be an array of mixed emotions," interim athletic director E. Newton Jackson said. "Coach Joe has been one of the celebrated coaches in football. So we're going to have some that loved him and some that will be glad to see him go, I'm sure."
Joe had two years left on his contract. Jackson would not say what Joe was owed, or if there is a clause in the contract that allows the school terminate him without paying the final two years.
The university doesn't plan to appoint an interim coach, but rather conduct a search for a new head man. The team will open its season at home Sept. 3 against Delaware State.
"It's certainly going to be a challenge for whoever seeks the opportunity," Jackson said. "I would imagine, though, that there will be a number of outstanding candidates that would still be interested in having the opportunity to coach at Florida A&M even with the future as it is."
The school's athletic program has been struggling financially and its budget was cut 20 percent last year.
"What's next? I'm scared to think of it," said FAMU Board of Trustees member Barney Bishop.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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