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Gailey's gone: Tech coach fired

POSTED: December 11, 2007 7:19 a.m.

ATLANTA — Chan Gailey never had a losing season in six years at Georgia Tech.

Then again, he never produced the sort of team that really got the fans excited.

Citing business considerations as much as wins and losses, athletic director Dan Radakovich fired Gailey on Monday, two days after his sixth straight loss to rival Georgia ended a season that failed to meet expectations.

The 55-year-old Gailey had lost support among the fan base, which made fundraising more difficult, and he wasn’t the sort of dynamic personality who could help the Yellow Jackets make a name in the crowded Atlanta sports scene.

"Obviously, he didn’t agree with the decision, but he understood there’s a business aspect to this," Radakovich said. "As far as Xs and Os, Chan is a very good coach. But there’s more to it now. College football is more than just Xs and Os, especially in the competitive market where we are."

Radakovich finalized his decision Sunday and broke the news to Gailey on Monday morning. Defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta took over as interim coach for an expected trip to the Emerald or Humanitarian Bowl, and he will be a candidate to keep the job permanently.

The move was widely expected after Georgia Tech (7-5) came up far short of another run at the Atlantic Coast Conference championship one year after winning its division. Also, Gailey never beat the school’s biggest rival, dropping to 0-6 with a 31-17 loss to the Bulldogs on Saturday.

"Nobody likes to get fired," said Gailey, a former head coach with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. "But all they can take is your job. They can’t take your faith. They can’t take your family. They can’t take your integrity."

Gailey’s overall record was 44-32 in six seasons, and he never lost fewer than five games in a year. Radakovich said the latest loss to Georgia did not influence his decision; he already had decided to make a change.

"We’ve been very consistent with wins and losses," said Radakovich, who’s in his second year as AD and inherited Gailey from the previous regime. "I want to be able to ratchet that up, take the next step."

Navy coach Paul Johnson, a former coach at Georgia Southern, will likely be mentioned as a possible successor. Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher figures to be tossed out as a candidate for several coaching jobs that have opened.

Fisher previously worked at LSU, as did Radakovich.

When asked about the speculation, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said, "You can’t do anything about it. What does it mean? Most of the time, nothing."

Radakovich would only confirm one candidate: Tenuta, who wants a shot at his first head coaching position but said he’d probably be willing to stay at Georgia Tech to work for someone else.

"Every guy who becomes an assistant coach wants a chance to sit in that big chair," said Tenuta, who came to Georgia Tech as part of Gailey’s original staff and has consistently produced one of the nation’s higher-rated defenses.

Throughout the season, Radakovich steadfastly declined to give Gailey a vote of confidence, merely saying he would evaluate the program after the season. The players suspected something was up when they received a text message to attend a meeting at the football complex.

"In a sense, the players do feel a responsibility," quarterback Taylor Bennett said. "I’m sure if we had been 10-2 or 11-1, this wouldn’t have happened."

Gailey’s downfall actually began at the end of last season, when Georgia Tech dropped its final three games, all by a field goal, after winning the Coastal Division. That stretch included losses to Georgia in the regular-season finale, Wake Forest in the ACC championship game and West Virginia in the Gator Bowl.

Gailey has four years left on his contract at $1 million annually, and Georgia Tech intends to honor the contract. There was some speculation the financially strapped athletic program would be reluctant to buy out the coach, but Radakovich clearly decided it would be more damaging to offend the big-money boosters by keeping Gailey.

The fans grew more and more impatient, which was evident in the closing minutes of a 27-3 loss to Virginia Tech. When the coach was shown on the video board delivering a public service announcement, the crowd at Bobby Dodd Stadium booed loudly.

Gailey was hired by the Yellow Jackets in January 2002 after George O’Leary left to take the coaching job at Notre Dame, then was hastily dismissed by the Fighting Irish because of inaccuracies in his resume.

Gailey had a pair of 7-6 seasons and went 7-5 three other times. The only break in that troubling trend was 2006, when the Yellow Jackets went 7-1 in the ACC and 9-5 overall.

But the Yellow Jackets fell far behind their state rivals. Under Mark Richt, Georgia has won two Southeastern Conference championships and is positioned for a major bowl this season.

After his success last season, Gailey was mentioned as a candidate for NFL coaching jobs in Pittsburgh and Miami, two teams for which he served as offensive coordinator. He stayed at Georgia Tech, but never developed a close relationship with Radakovich.

Gailey, who hopes to land another coaching job, pointed out that he was fired from two posts without having a losing season.

"I’m not sure if there’s any coaches out there," he said, "who went to the playoffs two years and got fired, then went to a bowl six straight years and got fired."


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