Orgeron fired

Published 12:13 am Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ed Orgeron is out as Mississippi’s football coach.

School officials announced his firing Saturday at a news conference, saying there had not been enough progress in the football program.

Orgeron’s departure ends a tumultuous three-year tenure in Oxford that included plenty of bravado but few wins. The move comes a day after the Rebels suffered their most difficult loss of the season. A fourth-and-1 call by Orgeron started a 17-point rally by Mississippi State that ended in a 17-14 loss after it appeared the Rebels had locked up the win.

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“In reviewing the criteria that I like to use in evaluating all of our head coaches, we felt progress had been made, and significant progress, but it was not enough to warrant moving forward to next year,” athletic director Pete Boone said.

Orgeron did not attend the news conference.

Calls to Orgeron’s home and cell phone were not immediately returned. He finished 10-25 in his first job as head coach.

Boone said assistant coaches Hugh Freeze and John Thompson will run the team while a search for a head coach is conducted.

Both Boone and Chancellor Robert Khayat endorsed Orgeron last month. Khayat told the AP that Orgeron’s job was safe and he believed the coach would eventually field a winner, even if it took five or six years.

Yet, the Rebels have lost five of six to end the season and 20 players were put on probation after stealing radios and pillows from hotels, totaling about $780.

Boone said the endorsements were made “with the anticipation that we would finish on a strong note. Coach O and I both thought it would happen, but it did not.”

Ole Miss will pay Orgeron 75 percent of his $900,000 salary through 2009.

Khayat hired Orgeron from Southern California, where he was defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. Many considered him the nation’s best recruiter after helping to land Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and a host of Trojans who participated in two national title runs.

His former boss, USC’s Pete Carroll, said this month that Orgeron’s presence was still felt in California, where Ole Miss coaches were trying to lure recruits from the Trojans.

While the Rebels have been close to a signature win during the last three seasons, Orgeron was unable to provide hope for a school and fan base wanting an immediate winner. This season was particularly difficult for because Orgeron’s recruiting efforts weren’t evident on a defense that finished near the bottom in nearly every defensive statistical category in the Southeastern Conference.

Orgeron was brought in to replace David Cutcliffe, who was coming off a 4-7 season in 2004 one year after sharing the SEC Western Division championship. Khayat said Cutcliffe had not done enough in recruiting when he fired the current Tennessee offensive coordinator.

Orgeron took the blame for Friday’s loss after deciding to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Rebels 49. The Bulldogs stopped running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis for a 3-yard loss, then rallied for 17 straight points in the final 10:05.

“If I had to do it all over again, I probably would not make the same call,” Orgeron said. “I understand that was a bad call and that it probably cost us the game. I understand that and I take the blame.”

Orgeron is the second SEC coach in the last two seasons to be fired after just three years on the job. Mike Shula also felt the sting of fan discontent at Alabama, where he was fired last year after a 6-6 record that followed a 10-win season.