JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Ed Orgeron was fired as Mississippi's coach Saturday, a day after the Rebels blew a game against their big rival to finish the season 3-9 and go winless in the conference for the first time since 1982.
His departure ends a tumultuous three years in Oxford that included plenty of bravado but few wins. The ouster came after Friday's difficult loss in which a fourth-and-1 call by Orgeron started a 17-point rally by Mississippi State that ended in a 17-14 defeat after it appeared Ole Miss had won.
The Rebels lost five of their last six games, and this season put 20 players on probation for stealing from hotels.
"In reviewing the criteria that I like to use in evaluating all of our head coaches, we felt progress had been made, and significant progress, but it was not enough to warrant moving forward to next year," athletic director Pete Boone said at a news conference.
Orgeron went 10-25 in his first job as head coach. The school will pay Orgeron 75 percent of his $900,000 salary through 2009. Calls to his home and cell phone were not immediately returned.
Boone said assistants Hugh Freeze and John Thompson will run the team while the school looks for a new coach.
Boone and Chancellor Robert Khayat endorsed Orgeron last month. Khayat told the AP that Orgeron's job was safe and he believed the coach would eventually field a winner, even if it took five or six years.
Boone said the endorsements were made "with the anticipation that we would finish on a strong note. Coach O and I both thought it would happen, but it did not."
Khayat hired Orgeron from Southern California, where he was defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. Many considered him the nation's best recruiter after helping to land Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and a host of Trojans who participated in two national title runs.
His former boss, USC's Pete Carroll, said this month that Orgeron's presence was still felt in California, where Ole Miss coaches were trying to lure recruits from the Trojans.
While the Rebels have been close to a signature win during the last three seasons, Orgeron was unable to provide hope for a school and fan base wanting an immediate winner. This season was particularly difficult because Orgeron's recruiting efforts weren't evident on a defense that finished near the bottom in nearly every defensive statistical category in the Southeastern Conference.
Orgeron was brought in to replace David Cutcliffe, who was coming off a 4-7 season in 2004 one year after sharing the SEC Western Division championship. Khayat said Cutcliffe had not done enough in recruiting when he fired the current Tennessee offensive coordinator.
Orgeron took the blame for Friday's loss after deciding to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Rebels 49. The Bulldogs stopped running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis for a 3-yard loss, then rallied for 17 straight points in the final 10:05.
"If I had to do it all over again, I probably would not make the same call," Orgeron said. "I understand that was a bad call and that it probably cost us the game. I understand that and I take the blame."
Orgeron is the second SEC coach in the last two seasons to be fired after just three years on the job. Mike Shula also felt the sting of fan discontent at Alabama, where he was fired last year after a 6-6 record that followed a 10-win season.
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