Coach Jeff Capel fired at Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma fired coach Jeff Capel on Monday after he followed a trip to the NCAA tournament's regional finals with the program's first back-to-back losing seasons since 1967.

Capel was 96-69 in five seasons in charge of the Sooners, but just 17-36 the past two after Blake Griffin entered the NBA draft early and became the No. 1 overall pick.

"After careful consideration, it has been determined that our men's basketball program would be best served by a change of direction," athletic director Joe Castiglione said in a statement. "Jeff Capel has worked diligently on our behalf, and for that we are appreciative. He has many outstanding qualities and we wish him success as he moves forward."

Capel had five years left on the contract that was extended after he made it within a win of the 2009 Final Four, with Griffin leading the way. He was making $1.5 million per year, and had annual raises and stay bonuses built into the contract.

But since he signed the extension, the program has fallen apart.

Despite having three McDonald's All-Americans on the roster, the Sooners finished the 2009-10 season with nine straight losses -- the second-longest losing streak in school history -- to plummet out of the Top 25 and end up with a 13-18 record.

Five underclassmen left the program, Capel restocked with largely unheralded players and Oklahoma went 14-18 this season. Attendance at the Lloyd Noble Center dropped off severely.

"As we look to the future, we do so with a great university, a proud tradition in basketball, continued commitment to excellence in all areas and some of the country's finest facilities," Castiglione said. "We expect that those qualities will play an important role in our search for a new coach."

Capel inherited a program saddled with restrictions after major NCAA rules violations by predecessor Kelvin Sampson, and the Sooners are again being investigated because of a loan former player Keith "Tiny" Gallon has said he took from a Florida financial adviser.

Documents obtained from the university showed that Oronde Taliaferro, a Capel assistant who resigned last year, frequently exchanged phone calls and text messages with the adviser, Jeffrey Hausinger of Tampa, and was even invited to stay at Hausinger's home.

A joint investigation by Oklahoma and the NCAA began a year ago, but has not yet yielded any charges.

Capel, a former Duke guard who was an up-and-coming coach at Virginia Commonwealth, was hired by Castiglione in 2006 after Sampson left to take over at Indiana. The Sooners missed out on the postseason in his first year at the helm, but then made it back to the NCAA tournament with Griffin the next two seasons.