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College football briefs

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 3, 2001

Buckeye letdowns get Cooper fired

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Losing to his biggest rival and in the biggest games caught up with Ohio State football coach John Cooper.

He was fired Tuesday, a day after the No. 19 Buckeyes lost 24-7 to unranked South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, leaving him 3-8 in bowl games.

Despite the school's poor bowl showing, athletic director Andy Geiger said Cooper's dismissal "did not hinge on winning or losing the Outback Bowl."

Cooper's Buckeyes struggled under the spotlight, also going 2-10-1 against archrival Michigan. The Buckeyes closed six of his 13 seasons with consecutive losses to Michigan and in a bowl game.

"I'm sure that was a big factor, and the reason I won't be coaching here anymore," said Cooper, who had hoped to coach at least one more season.

Geiger said the Outback Bowl's outcome was "sort of a capstone on what we have seen as a deteriorating climate within the football program. Concern about discipline, competitiveness, academic pursuits, a whole series of things. I thought yesterday, unfortunately, was an exhibit of all those things rolled into one."

Cooper disputed those concerns and said he couldn't think of an off-field problem that affected his team this season.

Ohio State will pay Cooper $1.8-million to buy out the last three years of his contract, which paid him more than $1-million per season. Cooper said he hoped defensive coordinator Fred Pagac would be his replacement.

Although favored Monday, Ohio State lost to a Gamecocks team that went 0-11 last season and was the only unranked team in a New Year's Day bowl.

In the weeks before the Outback Bowl, a starting wideout fell off the team with a 0.00 grade-point average, the team MVP and leading rusher was held out of the starting lineup for missing the first practice in Tampa and an offensive lineman sued another for $50,000 over an on-field fight in the spring.

The 63-year-old Cooper was 111-43-4 at Ohio State, which finished second in the final AP poll in the 1996 and 1998 seasons.

But he never lived up to Woody Hayes' high standards.

Cooper's victory total and tenure at Ohio State were exceeded only by Hayes, who went 205-61-10 in 28 seasons and led the Buckeyes to the 1968 national title.

Candidates to replace Cooper might include Minnesota's Glen Mason, Pagac, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, South Carolina's Lou Holtz, Youngstown State's Jim Tressel and former Buckeyes star Chris Spielman, who recently retired from the NFL.

Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris, who was Cooper's quarterbacks coach for two seasons, released a statement saying he is happy in Pittsburgh, though he didn't say if he would talk to the Buckeyes. Harris has led a moribund program to two bowl appearances in four seasons.

BOISE STATE: Oregon secondary coach Bob Gregory was hired as defensive coordinator.

GEORGIA TECH: Quarterback and former Jesuit High star George Godsey plans to have surgery on a torn ligament in his left knee next week and is expected to be healthy next season. Godsey will miss spring practice but is expected to resume running and throwing in June, giving him time to prepare for preseason workouts. ... Redshirt freshman quarterback A.J. Suggs, a Georgia native who lost his starting position midway through the season, confirmed he is transferring from Tennessee.

Late Monday: Fiesta Bowl

NO. 5 OREGON ST. 41, NO. 10 NOTRE DAME 9: The Beavers woke up and found they hadn't been dreaming after all: They really did whip the Irish.

"It really is kind of a shock to come in and dominate a team like Notre Dame," middle linebacker Richard Seigler said. "A lot of people are thinking, "Is Oregon State really a powerhouse?' "

It apparently is, and could be for the next few years. If not for a 33-30 loss at Washington in October, the Beavers might be in tonight's Orange Bowl, playing for the national title. The 2001 championship game will be the Rose Bowl, and the Beavers already are dreaming big.

"We definitely can keep it going," Seigler said. "Next year we're going to set the peak higher for ourselves. We're going to try to bring more to the table and get to that national championship."

The Irish, instead of re-establishing themselves among the nation's elite, were exposed by Oregon State's lightning-quick defense and receivers.

"Their team speed was definitely a factor," Irish coach Bob Davie said. "Based on tonight, we've got a long way to go. A long, long way to go."

The Irish finished with a loss for the seventh consecutive season, the fourth under Davie, and will finish out of the Top 10 for the seventh time in a row.

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