UNLV axes Sanford (5 years, 15 wins)

LAS VEGAS -- UNLV has fired football coach Mike Sanford after five losing seasons, a 15-43 record and no bowl appearances.

Sanford's firing comes after a 45-17 loss to Air Force on Saturday made the Rebels ineligible for a bowl game.

In a joint statement, university president Neal Smatresk and interim athletic director Jerry Koloskie said Sanford will coach the final game of the season at home against San Diego State on the Nov. 28.

"We agree this action is needed at this time," Smatresk said.

Sanford, 54, will be paid a $225,000 buyout, under terms of a three-year contract extension the coach signed last year.

Sanford had been watched closely by Smatresk and Koloskie since Oct. 3, when UNLV lost 63-28 to rival Nevada, allowing 773 total yards.

After that game, Smatresk said he would evaluate Sanford on a game-by-game basis and expressed concern for players and fans.

Sanford said that when he took the job, he laid out standards that were very high and understood that significant commitments would be necessary in terms of facilities, money and community support to get UNLV to compete with BCS schools.

"I had high hopes and expectations to bring that level of program to UNLV," Sanford said. "I do not for one second believe that I failed in this pursuit. I just wasn't given enough time or enough resources to do it."

The Rebels have allowed 457.2 yards per game this season, worst in the Mountain West Conference by more than 35 yards per game.

Quarterback Omar Clayton said the older players on the team handled Sanford's firing maturely.

"You realize that if things don't go a certain way, certain things have to happen," Clayton said.

UNLV is 2-5 in conference play this season and 7-32 in the Mountain West under Sanford. The Rebels won just one conference game on the road in five seasons under Sanford, beating New Mexico 34-17 last month.

"Our efforts remain focused on building the Rebels into a winning football program," Koloskie said.

Smatresk said he expects that hiring a new football coach will be one of the first major decisions by a new UNLV athletic director. The university committee searching for a new athletic director is expected to meet Dec. 1.

UNLV last made a bowl game in 2000.

Sanford was hired in 2004 after two years as Utah's offensive coordinator. He has coached since 1977 as a graduate assistant at Southern California. His experience includes a three-year stint with the San Diego Chargers as a wide receivers coach.

Sanford played for USC from 1973-1976, mostly as a backup quarterback but also at safety.