AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn fired defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson a day after giving up 55 points to rival Alabama.
Head coach Gus Malzahn announced the firing Sunday following a late-season slide that ended with a 55-44 loss in the Iron Bowl.
The No. 20 Tigers gave up 539 yards to the top-ranked Crimson Tide on Saturday in the highest-scoring Iron Bowl. They allowed an average of 483 yards and 39 points over their last six SEC games, losing four of them.
“At this time, I felt it was best for our program to make a change with our defensive coordinator,” Malzahn said. “Ellis is a true professional, and I would like to thank him for his contributions at Auburn.”
Auburn’s defense made several key stands in close games en route to a Southeastern Conference title and the BCS championship game last season but couldn’t duplicate that feat.
Johnson was fired after going 0-12 in his lone season as head coach at Southern Miss. But he had successful stints running the defenses at Clemson, Alabama, Mississippi State and South Carolina during a four-decade coaching career. He has spent 18 seasons in the SEC.
MISSING PLAYER FOUND DEAD OF SELF-INFLICTED GUNSHOT: In Columbus, Ohio, an Ohio State player who disappeared shortly after sending a text message about his concussions was found dead Sunday in a dumpster, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
Police spokesman Sgt. Rich Weiner said police received a call around 2:30 p.m. from someone reporting a body found in the trash bin. Weiner said a woman and her son apparently were looking for items in the dumpster when they found the body.
“At this time, we are able to confirm through tattoos here at the scene that it is the body of Kosta Karageorge,” Weiner said.
The police spokesman said the preliminary investigation showed Karageorge apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He said a handgun was found in the dumpster.
Police found the body near campus after a search began when Karageorge went missing Wednesday. The senior defensive tackle had last been seen at his apartment in Columbus, when his roommates said he left to go on a walk.
Karageorge’s parents filed a missing-person report Wednesday, and his mother, Susan, told police he had had several concussions and a few spells of being extremely confused, according to the report. She said that at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday he texted a message apologizing and saying the concussions had messed up his head. “I am sorry if I am an embarrassment,” he said.
FOOTBALL PROGRAM MAY BE OUT: Alabama-Birmingham appears close to dropping football.
Coach Bill Clark told ESPN that he expects the school to end the program, which has struggled financially and on the field for years.
“Unless something changes before the weekend ends, I think it’s over,” he said. “I think the odds are very high it ends this week.”
Sports Illustrated and USA Today reported UAB was taking steps to disband the program this week, including letting go Athletic Director Brian Mackin. Clark later tweeted: “Contrary to news, We haven’t heard any decision about our program. We are still fighting!”
In its first season under Clark, UAB (6-6) is eligible for bowl game for the first time since 2004.
CLEMSON’S MORRIS TO TAKE OVER: Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris will be SMU’s new coach, a person familiar with the school’s decision said.
The Mustangs (0-11) have one game left in a dreadful season, during which coach June Jones stepped down after two games. They’ve been outscored 441-97 and end the season Saturday at UConn.
Around the nation
After a season of speculation, Illinois coach Tim Beckman will be back for 2015, Athletic Director Mike Thomas said. ... A person familiar with the decision said Buffalo agreed to hire Wisconsin-Whitewater coach Lance Leipold. The 50-year-old has a 106-6 record in eight seasons and led Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater to five national championships. ... Washington State fired defensive coordinator Mike Breske and outside linebackers coach Paul Volero after the Cougars finished 3-9 with a loss to Washington in the Apple Cup.