The University of Louisiana at Lafayette fired seventh-year head football coach Mark Hudspeth on Sunday morning, citing lack of progress and inconsistent play along with apathy and declining support from its fan and support base.

Athletic director Dr. Bryan Maggard made the official announcement in a hastily called noon press conference after a whirlwind series of meetings Sunday morning with the Ragin’ Cajuns players, assistant coaches and football support staff members.

Maggard said he met with Hudspeth, whose team finished its season with a disappointing 63-14 Saturday road loss at Appalachian State, early Sunday morning and informed him of “my decision to move in a different direction.”

“I will tell you that (Hudspeth) was nothing but first class, a true professional when we met,” said Maggard, who was named athletic director in February. “I certainly had a great amount of respect for the way he handled this. He understands the business and the nature of it.”

Hudspeth’s squad finished 5-7 this season and went 4-4 in the Sun Belt Conference, tying for fifth place. The Cajuns had a chance to become bowl eligible for the sixth time in Hudspeth’s seven seasons with a win in either of their last two games, but lost to Georgia Southern 34-24 in the home finale a week ago before the huge loss on Saturday.

Hudspeth compiled a 51-38 record during his tenure and took the Cajuns to their first four Division I bowl games in program history between 2011-14, winning the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl four straight years in becoming the first team in NCAA history to win the same bowl game in four consecutive seasons. The Cajuns went 9-4 in each of those seasons after going 3-9 one year before Hudspeth’s arrival. Those 36 wins rank as the most successful four-year run in program history.

However, UL-Lafayette suffered through losing seasons in each of the past three years with 4-8, 6-7 and 5-7 records.

“I met with coach Hudspeth this morning and informed him of my decision to relieve him of his head coaching responsibilities of the football program,” Maggard said. “This decision was based on the lack of progress made throughout the season and inconsistent play, along with a sense of apathy that has surrounded our program.

“I felt like this was shown through significant drops in ticket sales and attendance, which created residual decreases in other revenue areas.”

Maggard said that both he and Hudspeth held separate meetings with players, coaching staff and support personnel Sunday morning before the announcement, which came as a one-sentence statement. Maggard also sent an email to all UL-Lafayette season-ticket holders and donors shortly after noon Sunday.

“Transitions like this are never easy for anyone involved,” Maggard said in that email. “I am extremely grateful for the commitment and service coach Hudspeth has given this community in addition to the improvements made within our football program over the past seven years.”

Maggard said assistant coach Michael Desormeaux, a former quarterback for the Cajuns, will serve as acting director of the football program until a new coach is named.

“In essence, he will be my point of contact during this transition time,” Maggard said. “He will be the one that I will look to run point in all things related to our program.”

Hudspeth had three years remaining on a six-year contract he signed in 2014 and extended by one year in 2015. His original contract was worth $6.45 million over six years, an average of $1.075 million per year, which at the time was the highest in the Sun Belt.

Maggard said all contractual obligations will be made, adding that no other members of the staff are under contract. One assistant coach had a contract that was scheduled to end in May 2018 or when Hudspeth was no longer head coach.

Maggard said that a search will begin immediately, adding that no decision has been made on whether he will conduct a search on his own — as he recently did with the hiring of Gerry Glasco as softball coach — or appoint a committee and/or retain a search firm. Maggard said UL-Lafayette president Dr. Joseph Savoie supported his decision to fire Hudspeth and will be consulted during the search for a replacement.

“He’ll be active, and I’ll keep him abreast of the progress,” Maggard said. “We’ll visit on candidates, but he has provided the necessary autonomy to go out and hire the right coach. He was supportive of my recommendation, and I would certainly never do anything without his blessing.”

Maggard said no timeline has been set for filling the position. He said the characteristics he is seeking in a new coach are: a proven winner interested in prioritizing academic success, developing positive relationships with student-athletes, and focusing on player development and relentless recruiting. He said head coaching experience is desirable but not required and that coordinators and assistants who bring a high level of talent and experience will be considered.