First-time head coach Ron Prince was handed a difficult task.
And in the end, his inability to turn around the
Kansas State program in less than three years cost him his job.
The school announced that Prince, who replaced legendary Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, will not return after the season. Prince's 16-18 career record included a bowl game in his first season and the second-most wins in his first two seasons of any coach in school history. But it was not enough to satisfy school officials.
"Our goal remains the same and we felt that change was necessary," Kansas State athletic Bob Krause said. "We want to think Coach Prince and his staff for effort. It's one of those decisions that are difficult to make, but in the final analysis we felt this was the best course for Kansas State University."
The Wildcats had regressed this season with a 4-5 record, including a humiliating 52-21 loss at Kansas last week. Kansas fans chanted "Save Ron Prince" to heckle their cross-state rivals.
Kansas State fell behind 31-0 at the half, contributing to the disappointment in Prince's job performance, Krause said.
"I think, in all honesty, that coming into the game, the buildup was there that there was a significant expectation that we would expect to win," Krause said. "That certainly is a factor."
Prince said he did not resign or quit his job. He plans to remain with his team through the final three games of a regular season and will receive a $1.5 million buyout.
Prince, 39, was offensive coordinator at Virginia before arriving at Kansas State. He also had been an assistant at Cornell, James Madison, South Carolina State, Alabama A&M and Dodge City Community College and had four different NFL minority fellowships.
"All coaches and competitors are the same -- they just want a chance to compete," Prince said. "That's what we attempted to do. We just ran out of time."
Krause said he would like to have a new coach in place by the end of the football season. He also said he would like to have a replacement with head coaching experience.
"It's coming down where you start with a list of people that have accomplished things and you move forward," Krause said.
That decision seems curious as it seemingly limits the school to coaches who are currently out of football. Among coaches who would fit the bill: Snyder, former Colorado coach Gary Barnett and former Texas A&M coach and former Kansas State assistant Dennis Franchione.
Krause said he plans to consult with Snyder about the vacancy, but did not confirm or deny if he would ask him to return to coaching. Snyder, 69, retired after the 2005 season. His career was marked by four Big 12 North titles and a Big 12 championship in 2003.
"I have not talked with Bill," Krause said. "He's one person along with others I'll consult. You start from a consulting basis and move forward from there."
Prince's career highlights included a trip to 2006 Texas Bowl and victories over Texas in 2006 and 2007. The Wildcats knocked the Longhorns out of the BCS title game hunt in his first season and returned with a stunning upset in Austin the following season.
But the afterglow of those wins was diminished by the Wildcats' 0-7 record against Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska and an 8-13 mark in conference play. The team had been booed after struggling through home losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma earlier this season.
Before the season, Prince signed 19 junior-college players to help beef up the talent base. Kansas State started 3-1 in non-conference play and notched a road victory against Texas A&M, but has lost three straight games since.
"No coach wants to not be successful and this is the first time in my career I haven't been," Prince said. "It's very new to me. And are we disappointed? Yes."
The Wildcats' defensive collapse has been stunning. Kansas State ranks 108th in rush defense and total defense, 107th in scoring defense and 114th in turnover margin. The Wildcats have allowed 800 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns in their past three games.
Despite those struggles, Kansas State could become bowl eligible by winning two of its last three games. The Wildcats travel to Missouri on Saturday before wrapping up the season with home games against Nebraska and Iowa State.
Prince is the second black coach to lose his job this season. Ty Willingham of Washington will not have his contract renewed. Only four African-American FBS coaches remain -- Turner Gill of Buffalo, Randy Shannon of Miami, Sylvester Croom of Mississippi State and Kevin Sumlin of Houston.
Tim Griffin covers college football for ESPN.com. You may contact him at email@example.com