NEW ORLEANS -- Tulane fired football coach Chris Scelfo on
Tuesday, ending an eight-year stint for a coach that held the
program together through Hurricane Katrina but struggled to win
before and after the storm.
"It's an extremely critical time for Tulane athletics and our
football program plays an extremely critical role," athletic
director Rick Dickson said in announcing the dismissal of Scelfo,
who had not had a winning season since 2002.
"We're in the midst of trying to bring ourselves back to full
strength and the largest engine of support toward that goal has to
come from our football program."
"I want to thank Tulane University, the city of New Orleans and more importantly every player that I have coached during my eight years at Tulane," Scelfo, was not at the news conference, said in a statement released by Tulane. "I especially want to thank Dr. Scott Cowen and Rick Dickson for the opportunity to coach at Tulane for eight great years. It is my hope the community will rally together and make Tulane football stronger than ever."
Dickson said some members of the coaching staff will be asked to
stay temporarily for recruiting and will be given an opportunity to
interview with the new coach.
Dickson did not hold himself to a deadline, but said a
nationwide search would begin immediately and that he understood a
new coach had to be in place soon.
"We want to absolutely get the right coach," he said. "We're
going to get it in as expeditious a time table in order to
effectively secure another good recruiting class this year."
Dickson said he considered Scelfo a good coach and friend and he
understood there were extenuating circumstances that contributed to
the team's difficulties on the field, such as last year's
displacement due to Hurricane Katrina.
Tulane, which went 4-8 this season, returned to the Louisiana
Superdome, but played before very sparse crowds in its longtime
The 2005 season was perhaps Scelfo's most difficult. Hurricane
Katrina forced the team to travel throughout the season, playing 11
games in 11 different cities while compiling a 2-9 record.
Scelfo's overall record was 37-57 with only one postseason bowl
appearance, a 36-28 victory over Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl in 2002
following a 7-5 season. The Green Wave's only other winning season
under Scelfo was in 2000, his second season, when the team went
During his tenure at Tulane, Scelfo sent nine Green Wave players
to the National Football League, including first-round draft picks
Patrick Ramsey (2002) and J.P. Losman (2004).
Tulane is in the second year of a five-year waiver to keep
Division I athletic status with only eight team sports instead of
the usual minimum of 16.
"The support has to build, not dwindle, and we had to reverse
that trend, again, for bigger reasons and beyond football,"
Dickson said. "We're going to have to ramp up levels of support
not seen here before. Football is a critical piece and driving
force of that. ... We can't afford to regress."
Dickson told the players of the dismissal Tuesday evening and
said their input, along with that of faculty and staff, would
influence who replaces Scelfo. Dickson said Tulane, a private
university far smaller than many of the state schools that dominate
college football in the South, has no plans to relax academic
standards for football players.
Because of that, the university would need a coach who would be
willing to embrace that philosophy and live with the recruiting
limitations it creates.
Scelfo was that kind of coach, Dickson said, and his players
struggled with the news he had been let go.
"Obviously, everybody's probably a little upset, just for the
fact that this has been our family for the last few years,"
quarterback Scott Elliott said. "It's going to be tough. But I
trust that the administration knows what they're doing and doing
the right thing for the program."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.