Local News

Chuck Amato out After Disappointing Season

Posted November 25, 2006 6:53 p.m. EST
Updated November 27, 2006 11:20 a.m. EST

— N.C. State head football coach Chuck Amato has been fired, Athletic Director Lee Fowler announced Sunday night.

In a statement released to the media, Fowler praised Amato for the excitement and the enthusiasm that he brought to the football program and for helping to generate revenue to improve the school's football facilities.

"However, because the results on the field in two of the last three seasons have fallen far below where we feel our program should be at this point, we have decided to take the program in a new direction," Fowler said.

The search to find Amato's replacement will begin immediately, Fowler said.

"Our search will be national in scope, and we will begin the process through a search firm very quickly," he said. "I ask that all Wolfpackers join together in supporting our student-athletes and staying behind our program."

The termination comes days after prominent athletic boosters pressured the school's administration to make a change and one day after the Wolfpack lost its seventh straight game against East Carolina 21-16.

Amato, who had three years remaining on his contract, said he was disappointed by the decision but proud of what he accomplished during his tenure.

"My vision was to take this program to places that it had never been before in 100-plus years of playing football," he said in a statement. "I didn't come here to use this job as a stepping stone like many others have or could. I wanted to surround myself with people who would help me stretch my vision and not choke my dreams. This is obviously a disappointing decision for me, but I would never do anything to hurt North Carolina State University."

Amato broke the news to his players at a regularly scheduled meeting Sunday evening at Carter-Finley Stadium. Many of them said it was emotional and that they saw a side of Amato they have never before seen.

"He said whatever coach comes in to give it everything we got, and hopefully we'll go to the championship next year," said sophomore cornerback Levin Neal. "He said he'd be the first one to get tickets to the game."

Ernest Jones, a junior linebacker, said Amato was positive as he addressed the players and offered his best wishes. Jones said the Wolfpack's struggles this year shouldn't be blamed entirely on Amato.

"It's not only the coaches' fault, but the players," Jones said. "We let the coaches down, so it's coaches and the players, also."

Players said they were disappointed but that the news did not come as a surprise.

Amato taped his weekly television show Sunday afternoon, but gave no indication about the status of his job. Sources close to Amato told WRAL that the taping went smoothly and that Amato was upbeat.

On Saturday, Amato made his case to continue as head coach at a news conference following the Wolfpack's loss.

"I think that I had a lot to do with bringing the emotion and enthusiasm and the belief to follow a dream that has never ever been reached here -- ever," he said. "And nobody knows how long it will take for that to happen. Nobody does."

The Wolfpack (3-9) closed the season with seven straight losses, the program's longest in-season losing streak since losing nine straight in 1959. Six of the seven losses were by eight or fewer points, while the seventh came against rival North Carolina -- which hadn't beaten a Division I-A opponent.

Through it all, penalties and undisciplined play plagued the Wolfpack in a season that seemed promising less than two months ago, further irritating a fan base already frustrated by the Wolfpack's up-and-down ways under Amato. By the time the Pirates were celebrating a 21-16 win, the questions about Amato's future were taking off.

"I've never been through a season like this," Amato said Saturday. "A lot of those kids in that locker room haven't either."

Amato has a 49-37 record and five bowl appearances in seven seasons, but his program has had two losing seasons in the three years since four-year starting quarterback Philip Rivers headed to the NFL. The Wolfpack hasn't finished higher than fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference during his tenure.

That isn't what Wolfpack fans had in mind when the school hired the former Florida State assistant in 2000. Amato arrived talking about contending for conference championships and more. Millions of dollars were eventually spent to upgrade Carter-Finley -- including construction of the 103,254-square-foot Murphy Center to house the football offices and the four-story Vaughn Towers with press and luxury seating, as well as permanent seats that bowled in the last open end of the stadium.

"I don't really have to say a whole lot to (the critics)," Amato said. "You look out there at that stadium and you can see what's going on here since I've been here. And you know, one bad season doesn't make the program. Programs are built ... in time. And this was a big bump in the road.

"I think I had a lot to do with bringing the emotion and the enthusiasm and the belief to follow a dream that has never, ever been reached here. Ever. And nobody knows how long it will take for it to happen."

Things looked like they were ready to move forward when first-time starting quarterback Daniel Evans led the Wolfpack to comeback wins against Boston College and Florida State in nationally televised games. But little went right afterward, starting when Wake Forest had a late interception to turn away the Wolfpack in a 25-23 road win.

Players like Evans, linebacker Pat Lowery and running back Toney Baker said Amato didn't talk about his future after the East Carolina loss. Instead, they said he talked about working hard during the offseason -- even if they don't know whether Amato will be there through it.

"We're just going to start on Monday with the offseason," Baker said. "We've got to get some discipline on this team. We've got to get some leadership and we've really got to take some accountability as players to not let this happen again."

Amato is the third football coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference to be dismissed this year because of a losing record. Miami coach Larry Coker was fired on Friday despite previously winning a national championship.

UNC's John Bunting coached his last game Saturday against Duke. The Tar Heels are scheduled to introduce Butch Davis as their new coach on Monday.