Amato's ouster caps Wolfpack's 0-7 finish to season

RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina State fired football coach
Chuck Amato on Sunday, a day after he completed his seventh season
at his alma mater.

The former Wolfpack linebacker had a 49-37 record at the school
and led the team to five bowl games. But his squads were 25-31 in
the Atlantic Coast Conference and never finished higher than

This season, North Carolina State (3-9) lost seven straight
games to finish with a losing record for the second time in three
seasons since quarterback Philip Rivers went to the NFL. On
Saturday, the Wolfpack finished the season with a 21-16 home loss
to East Carolina.

In a statement Sunday, athletic director Lee Fowler credited
Amato with helping to improve the program's football facilities and
ticket sales, but said a change was needed. He said a search for a
replacement would begin immediately.

"No Wolfpack fan can question the excitement and enthusiasm
that Chuck Amato brought to the N.C. State football program when he
came here in 2000," Fowler said. "However, because the results on
the field in two of the last three seasons have fallen far below
where we feel our program should be at this point, we have decided
to take the program in a new direction."

Amato, who had three years remaining on his contract, said he
was disappointed by the decision but proud of what he accomplished
during his tenure.

"My vision was to take this program to places that it had never
been before in 100-plus years of playing football," he said in a
statement. "I didn't come here to use this job as a stepping stone
like many others have or could. I wanted to surround myself with
people who would help me stretch my vision and not choke my dreams.
This is obviously a disappointing decision for me, but I would
never do anything to hurt North Carolina State University."

Amato met with the players Sunday night at Carter-Finley
Stadium; most emerged from the meeting dejectedly and declined to

"It's disappointing," said Curt Cignetti, Amato's tight ends
coach and recruiting coordinator. "I think Chuck did a lot of
great things for this program and right now I really feel for

Ernest Jones, a junior linebacker, said Amato was positive as he
addressed the players and offered his best wishes. Jones said the
Wolfpack's struggles this year shouldn't be blamed entirely on

"It's not only the coaches' fault, but the players," Jones
said. "We let the coaches down, so it's coaches and the players

From the day Amato arrived after 18 years as an assistant to
Bobby Bowden at Florida State, he talked of building a program that
would contend for conference championships and more. Soon,
Carter-Finley underwent about $87 million in renovations and
upgrades -- from the construction of the 103,254-square-foot Murphy
Center to house the football offices and the four-story Vaughn
Towers with press and luxury seating, as well as permanent seats
that bowled in the last open end of the stadium for this season.

Behind Rivers -- who rewrote the school's passing records -- the
Wolfpack went to bowl games in Amato's first four seasons. The
highlight was an 11-3 campaign in 2002 that included a top-10
ranking and a Gator Bowl win against Notre Dame.

But after Rivers' graduated, the Wolfpack suffered its first
losing season under Amato at 5-6 in 2004. Then, the Wolfpack
bounced back from a bad start and won five of six to close the year
with a win against South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. But
with each loss, the criticism seemed to increase, even as the coach
brushed it off with barrel-chested bravado.

When asked this season whether he felt he was on the hot seat,
Amato quipped, "The hottest seat I've been in is when I drove my
1969 Corvette from my house to this football office on a Sunday and
it was 98 degrees and I don't have air conditioning."

His program looked poised to take another step this season when
the Wolfpack beat Boston College on a last-second touchdown pass
and rallied to beat Florida State in a pair of nationally televised
games. But the 24-20 win against the Seminoles on Oct. 5 was
Amato's last.

From there, N.C. State lost six times by eight or fewer points
behind a familiar pattern of bad penalties and undisciplined play.
The exception was a 23-9 loss to rival North Carolina, which hadn't
beaten a Division I-A opponent, that marked the third straight loss
in the series.

That further irritated a fan base already frustrated by the
Wolfpack's up-and-down ways. And by the time the Wolfpack lost to
the Pirates on Saturday night, the speculation about Amato's future
had grown deafening.

"I have nothing but admiration for Chuck," said Johnny Evans,
a former All-America punter and quarterback for the Wolfpack and
father of current quarterback Daniel Evans. "Probably the greatest
thing about him is he instills in his players a real sense of
vision. And in large part that's been one of the biggest criticisms
because he got everybody thinking so big and the wins and losses
didn't match up."