Three straight 3-9 seasons cost Colorado State football coach Steve Fairchild his dream job.
New athletic director Jack Graham announced Fairchild's firing Sunday, a day after the Rams lost their eighth straight game, 22-19 to Wyoming, and four days after he took over the athletic department with a goal of returning the football program to prominence.
"I think Steve Fairchild is a spectacular human being. I don't think there is anybody who has worked harder for Colorado State University than Steve Fairchild," Graham said. "He is a former student, graduate, player, assistant coach and he was a head coach for four years. The program is squeaky clean and it's impeccable and Steve gets the credit for that."
He gets the blame for his 16-33 record, too.
"I think results are important," Graham said. "And going 3-9 three successive years is unacceptable. That in and of itself is enough to say a change has to be made."
Graham, who said he made his mind up Saturday night and informed Fairchild on Sunday, said a national search for a replacement would begin immediately.
"I would like to have this happen as quickly as possible without compromising the quality of the search," he said.
Graham said he'd like to bring in four or five finalists to campus for interviews but wants the process to go fast so that the Rams' recruiting efforts don't suffer.
Secondary coach Tim Duffie was named "transitional coach" in charge of directing the football staff and players. He will lead the Rams' recruiting efforts until a new coach is hired.
Graham said nobody on the current coaching staff would be considered for the head coaching job, however, and he said previous ties to the program isn't a prerequisite.
The new head coach will be paid at least as much as Fairchild received this year, which was more than $700,000, including radio and TV shows, Graham said.
Fairchild will be paid his base salary of $350,000 for next season, which was the last year of his five-year contract. That money will come from private funds, not state money, Graham said.
"We have made some great strides over the last four years, both on and off the field, and I feel the program is ready to take a major step forward," Fairchild said in a statement. "With approximately 19 starters returning for the 2012 season, I regret not having the opportunity to see the process through.
"However, I realize that college football is a bottom-line business, and I knew when I was hired that I would be ultimately judged by wins and losses."
Fairchild was a quarterback at CSU from 1978-80, served as the Rams' quarterbacks coach from 1993-96 and offensive coordinator from 1997-2000. He then spent seven seasons in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills and St. Louis Rams, five of them as offensive coordinator, before returning to Fort Collins.
"I'm extremely fortunate to have been a player, assistant coach, and head coach at my school, Colorado State, with a stint as an NFL coach in between," said Fairchild.
Graham replaced Paul Kowalczyk on Thursday and said his top priority was making the football program relevant. He met with Fairchild -- both are former CSU quarterbacks -- Friday and again Sunday.
Fairchild went 7-6 in 2008, including a win over Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl, after replacing the popular Sonny Lubick but went 9-27 after that, including losses in his last eight games. Both his 2009 and his '11 teams were beset by injuries to key starters, foiling hopes of resurgent seasons.
The football program's downward spiral is what led University President Tony Frank to fire Kowalczyk with 3½ years and $830,000 left on his contract in a stunning move Thursday. He replaced him with Graham, a retired businessman who played quarterback for CSU in the early 1970s but who has no experience running an athletic department.
Graham has hired a recruiting firm to help him find his next coach.
The Rams sensed Fairchild's time was up after their latest loss Saturday night.
"You can't go 3-9 three straight years and expect nothing to happen," said sophomore center Weston Richburg.
Quarterback Pete Thomas said players felt like they let down Fairchild.
"There is so much talent on this team. It (ticks) me off that we didn't play as well as we should," Thomas said. "If we had played better it would have been sure he would have been back next year."