Message Board

ESPN Auctions
Monday, November 4
Updated: November 6, 7:37 PM ET
Watts named interim coach for Spartans

Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State football coach Bobby Williams was fired Monday, two days after the Spartans dropped to 3-6 with their worst loss in 55 years.

Williams, one of four black coaches among the 117 schools in Division I-A football, was informed of his firing after Monday's practice by athletic director Ron Mason.

Offensive coordinator Morris Watts was appointed interim head coach.

On Sunday, Jeff Smoker's family announced that the suspended quarterback is battling substance abuse and has sought help. The same day, tailback Dawan Moss was dismissed from the team after being arrested and accused of dragging a police officer with his car following a traffic stop. Both Smoker and Moss were captains.

A 49-3 loss at Michigan on Saturday dropped Michigan State, which was ranked as high as 15th this season, to 1-4 in the Big Ten.

Williams has been under fire for weeks, with fans booing loudly during home games and calling for his ouster.

When Williams was asked Saturday if he had lost his team, he said: "I don't know.''

"If he wasn't sure, who was?'' Mason said Monday. "To me, that was the most defining moment.''

Mason said he will begin to formulate a plan to find a new coach right away.

"That's going to be the first thing I work on,'' he said. "There's not a timetable.''

Williams did not immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press on Monday night.

Watts, a 42-year veteran assistant coach, said he has no intention of applying for the top job.

"I look eagerly forward to doing the best job that I can,'' Watts said. "Right now, most of my thoughts are with Bobby.''

The Spartans' four consecutive losses have been by an average of 28.25 points.

Smoker, the third-leading passer in school history, is one of two players suspended for violating team rules. Defensive end Greg Taplin was suspended Thursday for an unspecified violation. Two other players have quit voluntarily.

Moss was charged with a felony and two misdemeanors after police said he resisted arrest in Lansing. Williams dismissed him from the team Sunday.

The three remaining black head coaches are Notre Dame's Tyrone Willingham, San Jose State's Fitz Hill and New Mexico State's Tony Samuel.

Williams, hired in 1999, and Willingham, who left Stanford to join Notre Dame before this season, were the first black football coaches in their schools' histories.

Willingham and Williams faced each other this season, when Notre Dame beat Michigan State 21-17 on Sept. 21.

Since he replaced Nick Saban on Dec. 5, 1999, when Saban left for Louisiana State, Williams was 16-17 overall, 6-15 in the Big Ten and 1-9 in conference road games.

In August, hopes and expectations were as high at Michigan State as they have been in more than a decade.

With 16 returning starters from last year's team, which finished 7-5, and with a favorable schedule, the Spartans were expected to at least contend for the Big Ten title.

The Spartans began the season with five home games and eight overall and were ranked 18th at the start of the season. They moved up to 15th after opening with wins over Eastern Michigan and Rice.

Williams' promotion from associate coach in 1999 made him the first black coach of a revenue sport at Michigan State and the first black football coach at a public Big Ten university.

Williams coached seven 1,000-yard rushers in his decade as the Spartans' running backs coach.

Before arriving at Michigan State, Williams spent four months in 1990 as a receivers coach on the staff of then-Kansas coach Glen Mason.

Williams was offensive backfield coach at Eastern Michigan from 1985-89.

His first full-time coaching assignment was at Ball State, where he worked with running backs in 1983 and defensive backs the next season. He also served as a graduate assistant coach under Leon Burtnett at Purdue -- his alma mater -- in 1982, working with the defensive secondary.

As a player at Purdue, Williams was a three-year starter in the defensive secondary and had eight interceptions and 172 tackles in his career. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection as a senior.

 More from ESPN...
UM-bearable: Spartans routed by instate rival Wolverines
John Navarre threw three ...

MSU quarterback Smoker has substance abuse problem
Michigan State quarterback ...

Michigan State TB Moss dismissed after felony arrest
Michigan State tailback Dawan ...

Division I football coaching changes
Here's a rundown of coaching ...

 Sudden News
Bobby Williams talks to ESPN's Jeremy Schaap about his dismissal as head coach at Michigan State.
Standard | Cable Modem

 The Replacement
Interim head coach Morris Watts plans to open his door to the team.
Standard | Cable Modem

 The Replacement
Michigan State AD Ron Mason names Morris Watts interim head coach of the Spartans.
Standard | Cable Modem

 ESPN Tools
Email story
Most sent
Print story
Daily email