Coker fired by Miami after .500 season

Updated: November 25, 2006, 12:46 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Miami fired football coach Larry Coker on Friday, a day after the Hurricanes beat No. 18 Boston College 17-14 to salvage a 6-6 season to become eligible to play in a postseason bowl game.

Coker's Record at Miami
Year
Record
Bowl Result
2001
12-0
Rose: Beat Nebraska 37-14*
2002
12-1
Fiesta: Lost to Ohio State 31-24*
2003
11-2
Orange: Beat Florida State 16-14
2004
9-3
Peach: Beat Florida 27-10
2005
9-3
Peach: Lost to LSU 40-3
2006
6-6
TBA
Total
59-15
3-2, 1 BCS title
* -- BCS national championship

Coker was informed of the decision by athletics director Paul Dee early Friday. Coker has three years remaining on a contract that pays him nearly $2 million annually, and the school will owe him between $2.4 million and $3 million in a buyout.

"The university has made a decision to change head coaches for our football program," Dee said at a news conference.

If Miami is invited to a bowl game, Coker will coach the team.

"I'd like to certainly end on a positive note," Coker said.

Coker, 58, won more games in his first six seasons than any other Hurricanes coach except Dennis Erickson, and he has won more games since 2001 than all but five Division I-A coaches.

Larry Coker
Joel Auerbach/US PresswireLarry Coker was fired after leading the Hurricanes to a 6-6 record in a 2006 season filled with turmoil and tragedy.

Coker had a 59-15 record, a winning percentage of nearly 80 percent, and won a national championship in 2001 and played for another title the following season.

"There were a lot of issues, but certainly the direction the program was going was certainly one," Dee said. "I wouldn't say that was totally it, but if you want to look in that direction, that was one. There were disappointments. There were opportunities, I think, to play better and we didn't. It all comes to the head coach."

There are plenty of potential candidates to replace Coker, including former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, who is close with Miami president Donna Shalala; Rutgers coach and former Miami assistant Greg Schiano; and Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe.

Schiano has been targeted by several of Miami's influential boosters as the top choice to replace deposed coach Larry Coker, a school official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach on Friday.

Dee said the university will hire a coach as quickly as possible, and that Chuck Neinas, former Big 8 commissioner and president of the College Football Association, had been hired as a consultant.

Coker's teams were 4-2 against rival Florida State, 3-0 against Florida and won two BCS bowl games, including a 37-14 victory over Nebraska in the 2002 Rose Bowl, which gave the Hurricanes their fifth national title.

But the Hurricanes slipped considerably the last two seasons, after they won their first 25 games under Coker, a former Miami offensive coordinator, who was elevated to replace Butch Davis following the 2000 season.

Stormy Season
Miami Hurricanes
Larry Coker was dismissed Friday as Miami head coach, the latest in a series of embarrassments, setbacks, and tragedies that have marred the Hurricanes' 2006 season:
July 21
Reserve safety Willie Cooper was shot in his yard. Cooper and teammate Brandon Meriweather returned fire.

Aug. 29
Police reports surfaced that wide receiver Ryan Moore grabbed a woman by the throat, pushed her to the ground and threatened another woman. He was later suspended and pled no contest to criminal mischief and battery charges.

Sept. 16
A 31-7 loss at Louisville dropped Miami to 1-2, Coker's worst start, and fueled a growing movement calling for a new head coach.

Oct. 14
An on-field brawl during a game against Florida International prompted the university to suspend 13 Hurricanes.

Nov. 7
Defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot and killed near his campus-area apartment.

Nov. 14
A disappointing season for quarterback Kyle Wright ended with thumb surgery.

Nov. 24
One day after upsetting Boston College and leading his team to bowl-eligible status, Coker was fired after six seasons at Miami.

Things began spiraling out of control quickly this season.

The Hurricanes lost 31-7 at Louisville on Sept. 16, falling to 1-2 and out of the national-title mix, needed a last-second interception just to beat winless Duke, and then matched the school's longest losing streak in nine years. Also, senior defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot and killed outside his apartment complex on Nov. 7, adding more torment to a team already reeling from its on-field issues.

Miami was also involved in a brawl with Florida International on Oct. 14, a sideline-clearing melee that led to the suspension of 18 FIU players and 13 Hurricanes players. It was something "that took a lot of heart out of our team," Coker said.

"We have suffered disappointments and tragedy off and on the field," Shalala said in a statement. "We can and will do better for our student-athletes and our community. ... We need a new start."

Miami went 9-3 in 2004 and 2005 and salvaged a .500 record this season after beating the Eagles. The Hurricanes will probably play in the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho or the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.

The crowd of 23,308 at the Orange Bowl for the Boston College game was the smallest in Miami's 44 home games since Dec. 4, 1999.

"Coach Coker is a smart guy, a wonderful guy, a passionate guy," Miami cornerback Glenn Sharpe said Thursday night after the regular-season finale. "A lot of guys were playing with him in their minds."

Coker came to Miami on Feb. 10, 1995, hired by then-coach Butch Davis to be the Hurricanes' offensive coordinator. And he had six often-rocky years as the guru behind Davis' offense, with perhaps the most stormy time before now coming in September 2000.

Miami lost at Washington 34-29 and Coker was the target of widespread ire by fans, some of whom faxed letters to local media outlets demanding he be fired. A "Fire Coker" rally was supposedly scheduled at the school's baseball field, but no event took place.

And by the end of that season, Coker was revered.

The 2000 Hurricanes averaged 42.6 points and 460.8 yards per game, ending the season with 10 straight wins after that loss in Washington -- and things kept rolling for nearly two more full seasons.

"We can and will do better for our student-athletes and our community. "
Donna Shalala, University of Miami president, in a statement to alumni

Davis resigned on Jan. 29, 2001, to become coach of the Cleveland Browns. About a week later, after Miami reportedly offered the job to Alvarez and then-Miami Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt, the Hurricanes ultimately turned to Coker -- who had never been a head coach beyond the high-school level.

He went undefeated and won the national championship in his first season, then ran his winning streak to 24 the next year and got the Hurricanes back into the national-title game -- where they lost in double overtime to Ohio State, 31-24.

It was the final time Coker would play for the national crown with the Hurricanes. Miami went to the Orange Bowl and beat Florida State to end the 2003 season, then settled for consecutive Peach Bowl trips that capped 9-3 seasons in 2004 and 2005.

Miami's offensive totals have declined each of the last five years under Coker. The Hurricanes ranked sixth in total offense in 2002 but have sputtered to the 80th-best mark so far this year.

Information from ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach and The Associated Press is included in this report

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