Coker fired by Miami after .500 season

Miami fired football coach Larry Coker on Friday, a day after the Hurricanes beat No. 18 Boston College 17-14 to salvage a 6-6 season to become eligible to play in a postseason bowl game.

Coker was informed of the decision by athletics director Paul Dee early Friday. Coker has three years remaining on a contract that pays him nearly $2 million annually, and the school will owe him between $2.4 million and $3 million in a buyout.

"The university has made a decision to change head coaches for our football program," Dee said at a news conference.

If Miami is invited to a bowl game, Coker will coach the team.

"I'd like to certainly end on a positive note," Coker said.

Coker, 58, won more games in his first six seasons than any other Hurricanes coach except Dennis Erickson, and he has won more games since 2001 than all but five Division I-A coaches.

Coker had a 59-15 record, a winning percentage of nearly 80 percent, and won a national championship in 2001 and played for another title the following season.

"There were a lot of issues, but certainly the direction the
program was going was certainly one," Dee said. "I wouldn't say
that was totally it, but if you want to look in that direction,
that was one. There were disappointments. There were opportunities,
I think, to play better and we didn't. It all comes to the head

There are plenty of potential candidates to replace Coker,
including former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, who is close with
Miami president Donna Shalala; Rutgers coach and former Miami
assistant Greg Schiano; and Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe.

Schiano has been targeted by several of Miami's influential boosters as the top choice to replace deposed coach Larry Coker, a school official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach on Friday.

Dee said the university will hire a coach as quickly as possible, and that Chuck Neinas, former Big 8 commissioner and president of the College Football Association, had been hired as a consultant.

Coker's teams were 4-2 against rival Florida State, 3-0 against Florida and won two BCS bowl games, including a 37-14 victory over Nebraska in the 2002 Rose Bowl, which gave the Hurricanes their fifth national title.

But the Hurricanes slipped considerably the last two seasons, after they won their first 25 games under Coker, a former Miami offensive coordinator, who was elevated to replace Butch Davis following the 2000 season.

Things began spiraling out of control quickly this season.

The Hurricanes lost 31-7 at Louisville on Sept. 16, falling to
1-2 and out of the national-title mix, needed a last-second
interception just to beat winless Duke, and then matched the
school's longest losing streak in nine years. Also, senior
defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot and killed outside his
apartment complex on Nov. 7, adding more torment to a team already
reeling from its on-field issues.

Miami was also involved in a brawl with Florida International on
Oct. 14, a sideline-clearing melee that led to the suspension of 18
FIU players and 13 Hurricanes players. It was something "that took
a lot of heart out of our team," Coker said.

"We have suffered disappointments and tragedy off and on the
field," Shalala said in a statement. "We can and will do better
for our student-athletes and our community. ... We need a new

Miami went 9-3 in 2004 and 2005 and salvaged a .500 record this season after beating the Eagles. The Hurricanes will probably play in the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho or the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.

The crowd of 23,308 at the Orange Bowl for the Boston College game was the smallest in Miami's 44 home games since Dec. 4, 1999.

"Coach Coker is a smart guy, a wonderful guy, a passionate
guy," Miami cornerback Glenn Sharpe said Thursday night after the
regular-season finale. "A lot of guys were playing with him in
their minds."

Coker came to Miami on Feb. 10, 1995, hired by then-coach Butch
Davis to be the Hurricanes' offensive coordinator. And he had six
often-rocky years as the guru behind Davis' offense, with perhaps
the most stormy time before now coming in September 2000.

Miami lost at Washington 34-29 and Coker was the target of
widespread ire by fans, some of whom faxed letters to local media
outlets demanding he be fired. A "Fire Coker" rally was
supposedly scheduled at the school's baseball field, but no event
took place.

And by the end of that season, Coker was revered.

The 2000 Hurricanes averaged 42.6 points and 460.8 yards per
game, ending the season with 10 straight wins after that loss in
Washington -- and things kept rolling for nearly two more full

"We can and will do better for our student-athletes and our community. "
Donna Shalala, University of Miami president, in a statement to alumni

Davis resigned on Jan. 29, 2001, to become coach of the
Cleveland Browns. About a week later, after Miami reportedly
offered the job to Alvarez and then-Miami Dolphins coach Dave
Wannstedt, the Hurricanes ultimately turned to Coker -- who had
never been a head coach beyond the high-school level.

He went undefeated and won the national championship in his
first season, then ran his winning streak to 24 the next year and
got the Hurricanes back into the national-title game -- where they
lost in double overtime to Ohio State, 31-24.

It was the final time Coker would play for the national crown
with the Hurricanes. Miami went to the Orange Bowl and beat Florida
State to end the 2003 season, then settled for consecutive Peach
Bowl trips that capped 9-3 seasons in 2004 and 2005.

Miami's offensive totals have declined each of the last five years under Coker. The Hurricanes ranked sixth in total offense in 2002 but have sputtered to the 80th-best mark so far this year.

Information from ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach and The Associated Press is included in this report