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TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- The University of Tulsa fired longtime head football coach Dave Rader on Monday in the midst of his
eighth-straight losing season, citing too many losses and too few improvements.
Athletic director Judy MacLeod gave Rader the news by telephone Monday morning. She then named defensive coordinator Pat Henderson as Rader's interim replacement.
"This has been an extremely difficult decision as well as an extremely difficult season," MacLeod said at a late morning news
The decision to fire Rader, who was 49-80-1 in 12 seasons as head coach at his alma mater, came after the Golden Hurricane's
35-21 loss to Hawaii on Saturday.
With Tulsa 1-6 (0-4 in the Western Athletic Conference), the defeat ensured another losing season and gave added impetus to
begin an immediate national search for a new head coach, she said. The university hopes to name a new coach at the end of the season.
"We just felt like we wanted to begin the turnaround now," MacLeod said.
Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Rader by telephone at his home were not immediately successful.
Players seemed stunned by the news, which many of them received while in morning classes.
"As a team, we believe in coach Rader," said freshman quarterback Josh Blankenship, a highly touted recruit under Rader who made his first collegiate start Saturday. "I'm completely numb right now."
Tulsa's opponents also expressed disappointment. "If there's a better man to do a better job in Tulsa, in America, I don't know who he is," said Rice coach Ken Hatfield,
whose team beat the Golden Hurricane 20-10 earlier this month. "Nobody's given more love, blood, sweat and tears to that program
than Dave Rader." "True people that follow football" know "there's nobody probably in America that had less to work with" than Rader and still maintained a positive face for the program, Hatfield added.
Oklahoma State coach Bob Simmons said his profession often talks about graduation rates of athletes, but the bottom line comes down
to wins and the ability to draw support.
"If you don't do those things, `We like you, but see you later."' he said. "Dave's a good person. Dave's a good coach. Dave's going to be fine. He's going to be all right. But is it a
part of this profession? It is."
Last season, Rader received a four-year contract extension. MacLeod said at the time that his coaching skills, integrity and
treatment of athletes made him the "best fit" for the job.
On Monday, she called him a "first class" representative, but said the dismissal came down to "losing games and not seeing the
improvement we needed to see."
The decision came after weekend discussions involving MacLeod, University President Bob Lawless and the private school's board of
trustees. MacLeod declined to say if Rader was given a chance to resign, but said he had no interest in another position with the
Tulsa, with its enrollment of 4,246, demanding academic programs and a nearly 70-year-old football stadium, has long struggled
against better-funded opponents.
Hatfield predicted Tulsa will have to pay the next coach twice what it paid Rader, who grew up watching the Golden Hurricane play
and was the team's starring quarterback in 1977 and 1978.
"Whoever else comes in there is going to want a lot more, a lot more guarantees, a lot more assurances, a lot more everything,"
Hatfield said. "And so somehow they'll find the resources to do it and if they do, your question is why didn't they do it to help a
guy that loved Tulsa as much as he did?"
MacLeod said Henderson, who spent two seasons as linebackers coach for the Hurricane in the mid-80s and returned to the coaching staff in 1997, will be a candidate for the job.
Henderson, who also has coaching experience at Texas Christian,
Purdue and Arizona State, said he is convinced Tulsa can win its next four games.
"I think our players and coaches have a resolve to make something out of this season," he said.
Senior defensive back Spencer Braggs said the change might "put a little spark" in the team.
"This is very unfortunate, " Braggs said. "Coach Rader is the greatest guy you'll ever meet, but this is a business and wins
account for more than losses."