NEW ORLEANS - Bob Toledo resigned as Tulane’s football coach effective immediately, Athletic Director Rick Dickson announced Tuesday morning.
Toledo, who received a one-year contract extension after last season, had a 15-40 record at Tulane, including a 2-5 start this season. The final straw came Saturday when the Green Wave was beaten 44-7 by Conference USA foe UTEP in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the latest in a series of lopsided losses during Toledo’s nearly five-year tenure.
It’s a trend that didn’t show any signs of slowing down. In a six-week span this season, the Wave was outscored 168-43 in losses to Tulsa, Duke, Army and UTEP.
Tulane’s victories came against Southeastern Louisiana (47-33) in the season opener and at UAB (49-10) two weeks later.
Toledo, 65, was about to enter the final year of his contract when he received the extension in the wake of a 4-8 finish last season.
Dickson said he will immediately begin a national coaching search, with the help of an outside firm, to find a fresh face for Tulane’s program.
In the meantime, co-offensive coordinator Mark Hutson, who has served as the Green Wave’s offensive line coach since 2007, was named interim coach for the remainder of the season. Hutson also served in an interim role for Eastern Illinois in 2006, leading the Panthers to an 8-5 record and earning a share of the Ohio Valley Conference championship.
His first test as an FBS head coach comes against Memphis in Tulane’s homecoming at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Although Dickson didn’t mention any specific names immediately targeted, he hinted toward having an increased budget for the search and eventual hire.
“I would say this, without specifying any numbers or range, I don’t know that in either instance of head coach or assistant staffs that we will necessarily be the highest in the country or the conference,” Dickson said. “I do strongly believe that we’ll be allowed to be very competitive in both at a different level than we have currently and more recently.”
Citing a “toxic situation” that involved some fans hurling insults at Tulane’s staff during last week’s loss, Dickson acknowledged it was time to put an end to the angst and disapproval among the Green Wave’s fan base and said Toledo’s departure would help alleviate some of the stress.
“We have played three conference games and there are six games remaining,” Hutson said. “Our goals are still intact. Our focus and our commitment is to beat Memphis.
“We have good student-athletes. They’re good players. They’re good people. In times of turmoil and times of disarray, they have to come together right here. And for the most part, young adults are resilient. I look for them to come together and to work.”
Although there was some outcry throughout most of the season, both coaches and players admitted it had reached a fever pitch in recent days, although Toledo led the team through practice Monday before resigning early Tuesday morning.
“As Bob said to me this morning, it’s not good working conditions for him or the players,” Dickson said. “I think the accumulation of that over time ? (and) with last Saturday’s performance and facing another home game this weekend, it had ratcheted right back up to that point.”
Senior wide receiver Joe Kemp said he was disappointed at the entire situation and it was tough to watch Toledo leave under such despondent circumstances in the middle of a season. He wasn’t alone.
“I have family in the stands and it hurts me to hear that my family had some vicious things said near them by people who are upset with the situation here,” senior offensive lineman Harris Howard said. “I’m hoping we can look to this and just move forward in a positive way and put some of the bad stuff behind us. I know we can all get behind coach Hutson and learn from him and take his positive attitude and play the rest of the season to our best capabilities.”
The Green Wave hasn’t had a winning season since 2002 when it finished 8-5 after beating Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl.
Toledo, who was hired to replace Chris Scelfo on Dec. 11, 2006, had 93-108 record in 17 seasons as a collegiate head coach, most notably at UCLA from 1996-2002.
“In a statement released by the university, Toledo said, “We worked extremely hard and I feel like we did our best. ? Tulane has some very talented players that will help this program become successful.”