Syracuse fires football coach Paul Pasqualoni

Updated: December 29, 2004, 10:10 PM ET
Associated Press

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse fired football coach Paul Pasqualoni on Wednesday, eight days after a 37-point loss in a bowl game -- and less than a month after giving him a vote of confidence.

"Sometimes you just know you need to make a change," athletic director Daryl Gross said. "He's had a long tenure here. He served the student athletes well. He is a tremendous man. The things he's done here, you can marvel at.

"I just think it's time to go in a different direction. We're going into the heart of the recruiting season right now. We needed to act one way or another."

Pasqualoni, who was unavailable for comment, departs after 14 years with a 107-59-1 record and a 6-3 mark in bowl games. He is the second-winningest coach in school history, behind Ben Schwartzwalder, who had 153 victories.

But the Orange struggled to break even after going 10-3 and finishing ranked No. 14 in 2001. They were 4-8 in 2002, Pasqualoni's only losing season, and 6-6 the last two years.

Gross, a former assistant at Southern California who was hired only two weeks ago to replace the retiring Jake Crouthamel, cited several factors for his decision, including declining attendance and the team's inconsistent play.

"Obviously, there has been some success here, but as of late it hasn't been on a consistent basis," Gross said. "In looking at the past few seasons, there were some inconsistencies in there. At the same time, there were some opportunities to do some great things that didn't materialize, and that's unfortunate. And that's part of coaching. Sometimes it's just bad luck."

Gross said a search for Pasqualoni's replacement will begin immediately, adding that he will look for a defensive-minded coach with experience in both college and the NFL.

Pasqualoni, who had one year left on his contract, becomes the 11th Division I football coach to be fired this year. His firing came after Chancellor Nancy Cantor announced Dec. 6 that he would return for his 15th season. But Gross was hired 11 days later, and the Orange's humbling 51-14 loss to Georgia Tech in the Champs Sports Bowl helped seal Pasqualoni's fate.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that that game would get that sideways," Gross said. "Sometimes that happens in a bowl game situation."

Crouthamel, who hired Pasqualoni to replace Dick MacPherson, gave his coach a positive evaluation after the Orange upset then-No. 17 Boston College in the season finale. That vaulted Syracuse into a four-way tie for the Big East championship and made the Orange eligible to play in the postseason.

Syracuse began the season with a 51-0 loss at Purdue on national television, the most lopsided season-opening defeat in the program's 112-year history. And after nearly upsetting Florida State and beating Connecticut and Pittsburgh, Syracuse lost for the second straight time at lowly Temple, a team with a total of 13 Big East wins that has been booted out of the conference. That loss ended up costing Syracuse the Big East's BCS berth in the Fiesta Bowl, which instead went to Pittsburgh.

Dwindling home attendance also was a problem. For five home games this season, the Orange averaged just over 37,000, about three-quarters of capacity in the 49,000-seat Carrier Dome and nearly 10,000 fewer than 1998, Donovan McNabb's final college season. Since McNabb left for the NFL after the 1998 season, the Orange have an overall record of 39-33 and 21-20 in the Big East Conference.

"There is some restlessness in the community about football," said Gross, who left town immediately for the Orange Bowl in Miami. "You want to have some hope, and we hope to do great things with a new coach."

Only Penn State's Joe Paterno, Florida State's Bobby Bowden, Air Force's Fisher DeBerry, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, Kansas State's Bill Snyder and Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez have longer tenures at the same school than Pasqualoni, whose firing also ends a Syracuse tradition of continuity. The Orange were the only Division I team to have the same head coaches in both football and basketball since 1991.

Basketball coach Jim Boeheim, in his 29th year and a supporter of Pasqualoni, watched the news conference from a side room but declined to comment and walked away while it was still in progress.

Pasqualoni was slated to become president of the American Football Coaches Association in 2005. AFCA Executive Director Grant Teaff said the association's bylaws prevent Pasqualoni from taking the position unless he obtains another job.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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