With football program at lowest point, Syracuse fires Robinson

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Greg Robinson's career as Syracuse coach started poorly and never got better. When he was fired with two games left in a fourth straight dismal season, even he figured it was coming.

"I don't think it really comes as a surprise to anyone. It doesn't come as a surprise to me," Robinson said at a news conference Sunday. "I ran out of time. I still see improvement. As always, I'm optimistic. I think with more time I could do better. Obviously, I didn't get it done. That's the bottom line. I understand why the decision was made, so I go from there"

Robinson, who will coach the final two games of this season, is 9-36 overall and 3-25 in the Big East in three-plus seasons. He had another year left on a contract that pays $1.1 million per season.

He said it was important to him to finish the season.

"I wanted to make sure under no uncertain terms I was the football coach," Robinson said. "I've seen it become chaotic. This will not be chaotic."

Syracuse (2-8, 1-5) lost to Connecticut 39-14 on Saturday night and is trying to avoid a third 10-loss campaign under Robinson. The Orange had never reached double-digit losses in a season before Robinson was hired by athletic director Daryl Gross in January 2005 to replace Paul Pasqualoni.

"Last week we fell out of bowl contention and this week was senior week. We just thought at this point the community could relax," Gross said, explaining why he waited until Sunday to make a decision. "He's a guy who wanted to live here the rest of his life. A guy like that you give a chance."

After Syracuse went 2-10 last season, Gross decided to retain Robinson despite calls for change from both alumni and fans. But Gross said he needed to see "tangible improvement" in the program and that never happened.

Syracuse stayed close to Pittsburgh and West Virginia in its first two Big East games this season, but were blown out 45-13 at South Florida on Oct. 18, accumulating 9 yards of offense and no first downs in the second half.

A 28-21 victory against Louisville at home in its next game provided a glimmer of hope, but the Orange have lost their last two games by a combined score of 74-31. Those type of lopsided losses have been commonplace during Robinson's tenure.

"We talked this year about having all this progress, and we're not getting the wins," Gross said. "This is a program that I felt at this time should be moving back toward prominence and competing for conference championships and we're not there. I think we need to move a little faster."

Gross said a search was under way but offered no details. The Syracuse Post-Standard quoted sources saying Connecticut coach Randy Edsall, a Syracuse alum, was "very interested" in the job.

"I don't talk about personnel issues ... ," Edsall told The Hartford Courant on Sunday. "I'm just focused with this team, trying to make us better and do the things that I can to make our team the best we can and I'm just focused on [UConn's next game against] South Florida."

Robinson was a longtime NFL and college defensive coordinator, but he'd never been a head coach. He was hired to revive a Syracuse program with a long tradition of success that had gone stale.

Pasqualoni had a 107-59-1 record at Syracuse in 14 seasons and a 6-3 mark in bowl games, but the Orange went 6-6 in his final season, including a 51-14 loss to Georgia Tech in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Two weeks after Gross was hired as AD in 2004, Pasqualoni was fired.

Under Robinson, though, the Orange got worse. Robinson's first team went 1-10, the first time since Syracuse began playing football in 1889 that it lost 10 games. There have been few, if any signs, of improvement.

The team's poor performance under Robinson, who has had three offensive coordinators in his four seasons, also has hurt financially. In 21 home games over Robinson's first three seasons, more than 260,000 seats were not sold.

In April, the school newspaper, The Daily Orange, reported that the football team lost money in 2006 for the first time since 1995, when athletic departments were first required to report their finances to the government.

Average attendance fell to a 21-year low in 2007, and attendance numbers are again abysmal this season. Only 27,549 turned out for Pittsburgh in September, the smallest Carrier Dome crowd in 22 years.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.