Tulane offensive coordinator Doug Ruse has worked his last game with the Green Wave.
Coach Willie Fritz announced Tuesday that Ruse would not be retained for a fourth season, and the school already has started searching for his replacement. Sources said Ruse’s departure was immediate and the Wave will have an interim offensive coordinator for its bowl game, likely either offensive line coach/run game coordinator Alex Atkins or Fritz himself.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Doug Ruse and I would like to thank him for all the hard work he has put into our football program over the past three seasons,” said Fritz, who was out on the road recruiting and unavailable for comment outside of Tulane’s release. “Coach Ruse is a good man and a great coach, but at this time, we have decided to go in a new direction with our offense from a philosophical standpoint.”
Tulane earned its first bowl bid in Fritz’s three-year tenure (and its first since 2013), beating Navy 29-28 on Saturday at Yulman Stadium to get to 6-6, but even then, the offense was plagued by some of the issues that have hurt it in Ruse’s tenure. Leading 21-3 at halftime, Tulane failed to score on it first four series of the second half–managing one first down through the first three — as the Midshipmen rallied to go ahead 28-21.
Tulane is eighth in the 12-team American Athletic Conference in yards and ninth in scoring, similar numbers to the previous two years. The Wave ranked 10th in yards and eighth in scoring in 2017 and 11th in yards and 10th in scoring in 2016.
Ruse also served as the quarterbacks coach, and Tulane struggled there, too. Glen Cuiellette completed 42.6 percent of his passes in 2016, with Jonathan Banks completing 56.6 percent in 2017 and Banks and Justin McMillan combining to complete barely more than half of their throws this season.
Banks, who was expected to make a big jump forward in his senior year, went backwards instead. He completed 51.8 percent and lost five fumbles before being benched in favor of McMillan for the final five games.
Tulane also struggled to retain its quarterbacks under Ruse. Johnathan Brantley, Khalil McClain and Cuiellette, the top three backups to Banks last year, all transferred after the season, leaving the Wave bereft of experience backups until McMillan transferred from LSU near the end of preseason camp in August.
Before Ruse’s departure, Tulane was the only FBS team to retain all of its assistant coaches from the start of spring practice in 2016 through this season.
Ruse has been Fritz’s offensive coordinator for seven consecutive years, joining him at Sam Houston State in 2012 and following him to Georgia Southern and Tulane.
Ruse also had stints at Northwestern State (1994-2001), Arkansas State (2002-09) and Western Illinois (2010-11).
Although there never was a clear rift between Fritz and Ruse, there were signs of disagreement.
After Tulane lost to SMU and fell to 2-5 this season, running back Corey Dauphine said Fritz approached him before the team left the field and told him he would get the ball more often the rest of the way, a conversation Fritz confirmed.
Dauphine, who had three carries in that defeat, gained 107 yards on 18 attempts against Tulsa the following week and added 121 yards on 17 rushes in the next game as Tulane began its late-season push.
Ruse’s tenure was not a complete wash. Tulane rushed for 228.1 yards per game in 2016, the fourth highest total in school history, and 231.5 yards last season, ranking second all time.
Despite the inconsistency in his final game, Ruse is leaving on a high note. McMillan earned AAC offensive player of the week honors for his performance against Navy, throwing for three touchdowns, running for another and tossing the winning 2-point conversion.
Tulane will learn its bowl destination this weekend — either Saturday after the Central Florida-Memphis AAC championship game or Sunday when the official bowl pairings are announced.