TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) _ The sight of Alabama players sitting on the turf in disbelief after a humiliating homecoming loss was just too much for one of the proudest programs in college football.
Coach Mike DuBose will resign at the end of the season, bringing an end to four turbulent seasons. He survived a sexual harassment scandal to lead the Crimson Tide to a conference title last season, but watched the team collapse this year.
``I thought Monday in my heart and soul that I needed to make a change,'' athletic director Mal Moore said Wednesday during a news conference. ``We both agreed that new leadership is needed to move the program forward,''
Alabama was ranked No. 3 in the preseason poll, with many fans expecting the Tide to roll through their Southeastern Conference opponents and make their way to the national title game.
But the Tide opened with a loss at unranked UCLA, were shut out by Southern Mississippi, also lost to Arkansas and Tennessee and fell 40-28 on Saturday to Central Florida. At 3-5, Alabama needs victories in its final three games to make the SEC championship game and stay alive to qualify for a bowl game.
``We're all pretty much stunned right now,'' quarterback Tyler Watts said. ``We're going to stick together. Across the board, everyone would love nothing more than to win these last three and go to Atlanta for coach.''
DuBose followed Gene Stallings as coach in 1997, five years after the Tide won their sixth national title. Bear Bryant led Alabama to five titles between 1958-82.
Moore said DuBose would be paid his salary and benefits through January 2002 and there would be ``no lump sum payment.''
DuBose, 47, a former Alabama player and longtime assistant coach, was under contract through Jan. 31, 2004. He is 24-20 in four seasons as head coach.
Moore said he will search for an experienced head coach to replace DuBose, who was given the job without college head coaching experience.
The athletic director said he would pick a successor without a search committee. He declined to identify any possible successors but said ``you always have coaches in mind in these situations.''
Moore said money would not be an issue, though DuBose's $525,000 annual compensation package made him one of the Southeastern Conference's lowest paid football coaches.
``We will do what we need to do to move forward this program, and take it to the level that is expected and demanded of it,'' Moore said.
He said DuBose would coach the team through a bowl game if it makes it that far. Moore isn't worried that that might affect the interest of prospective successors.
``I will be looking for coaches that I feel certain will be in bowl games, from top programs that have had success and are having success at the present,'' Moore said.
DuBose met with the team Wednesday afternoon after working out final details of the resignation agreement with Moore.
``It was very emotional,'' defensive end Kenny King said. ``The head coach, assistant coaches and players were very emotional, and tears were shed.''
Defensive tackle Jarret Johnson said DuBose was subdued in practice, which was closed to the media.
``You could just tell it hurt really, really bad,'' Johnson said. ``He tried to get in there and be himself, but he was too emotional.''
DuBose did not attend the news conference, but issued a statement saying he had been fortunate to be part of the Alabama tradition for much of three decades. He thanked players, assistant coaches, fans and alumni for support and commitment.
``Most importantly, I thank God for all the opportunities he give me each and every day,'' DuBose said.
Moore said that as the season went along it appeared ``we were starting a slide or downward spiral'' that DuBose could not stop.
University president Andrew Sorensen said DuBose had given a ``great effort'' but that all agreed ``a change in leadership is warranted.''
DuBose led the Crimson Tide to the SEC crown last year, a season that began under a cloud after DuBose nearly lost his job in an embarrassing sexual harassment scandal. But with the SEC title, he was touting his team as a national championship contender before the season, which opened with Alabama ranked No. 3 nationally.
DuBose said after Saturday's loss to Central Florida that he did not plan to resign.
``If God intends me to do something, then I will do that,'' DuBose said. ``Or if I look in the eyes of these young men and know I'm not doing the things I should be doing to help them be a better player, a better student and a better person. And I believe we're doing that.''
After a 4-7 season in 1997, DuBose put together two winning seasons. He was selected SEC coach of the year after last year's team went 10-3, won the conference championship and went to the Orange Bowl.
After Alabama lost 21-0 to Southern Miss on Sept. 16, DuBose offered to resign at the end of the season. Moore did not accept the offer.