Winning the River Bell Classic last week over Nicholls State wasn’t enough to save Mike Lucas’ job as head football coach at Southeastern Louisiana University.
SLU officials announced in a brief news release Monday afternoon that Lucas “will be released from his duties effective immediately.”
The release further states, “The search for a new coach will begin immediately.”
Lucas said he was notified of the university’s decision in a meeting with SLU President John Crain and SLU Athletic Director Bart Bellairs on Monday afternoon.
“There really wasn’t very much conversation,” Lucas said. “They just said they were going to go in a different direction.”
Southeastern compiled a 3-8 record this season and closed with a 31-14 win over Nicholls State on Thursday to snap an 12-game conference losing streak and finish seventh in the Southland Conference standings ahead of the Colonels.
SLU finished fourth in the Southland Conference in total offense this season (401.8 yards per game), but finished last in total defense (441 ypg) and seventh in turnover margin (-12).
The Lions started the season with losses to Football Bowl Subdivision teams Tulane and Southern Miss, sandwiched around a 63-6 win over Savannah State.
But in its first five SLC games this season, SLU was outscored 240-120.
In a 28-20 road loss to Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 12, the Lions had the ball at the Lumberjacks’ 8 before turning the ball over on downs with just more than two minutes remaining.
SLU got a 38-28 nonconference win over Texas State on Oct 22.
Lucas and his staff played their share of young players this season and lost several key players to injuries as the season progressed.
“With a year left on my contract, I hoped they would see we were playing better and playing with some young guys,” Lucas said. “On our final two-deep, there were 13 freshmen and sophomores on offense and 10 freshmen on defense.
“The future’s real bright. Whoever they hire is going to have a lot of good, young players.”
Lucas, who compiled a 19-40 record in five seasons at the helm of the SLU program, took over as head coach at the end of the 2006 season for Dennis Roland.
Lucas, who came to SLU in 2005, served as the team’s defensive coordinator under Roland; was interim head coach while Roland underwent treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2006; and was officially named head coach on Dec. 14, 2006, after SLU parted ways with Roland.
Lucas went 3-8 in his first full season as head coach in 2007 and followed with a 5-7 mark in 2008. During that season, Lucas was unable to coach the final six games as head coach after undergoing a heart valve procedure, and then-offensive coordinator Tommy Condell served as the team’s acting head coach.
Lucas returned to the sideline in 2009 to post his best season with the Lions, going 6-5 overall and 4-3 in SLC play to earn Coach of the Year honors from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.
The Lions followed with a 2-9 record last season.
“I just want to thank all the fans and administration at Southeastern,” Lucas said. “(Former SLU President) Dr. (Randy) Moffett, who hired me. I just want to thank them for the opportunity. Hopefully, our kids learned more than wins and losses.”
Lucas said he doesn’t know what his future holds at this point.
“I’m kind of numb right now,” he said. “My wife (Wendy) owns a business in Hammond, and my son (Torin) is a senior on the baseball team at Southeastern. We’re just going to have to pray and see what the Lord has for our future.”