Tulane's rebuilding in football to go on without Scelfo

Updated: November 29, 2006, 12:08 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

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 home stadium.

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 6-5.

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.