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Tech fires head football coach
Chan Gailey leaving after six down seasons
A grim faced Chan Gailey walks off the field after losing to Georgia Saturday in Atlanta. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon


ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech fired coach Chan Gailey on Monday, two days after his sixth straight loss to rival Georgia ended a disappointing season.

Athletic director Dan Radakovich made the announcement after a morning meeting with Gailey. Defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta will take over as interim coach for an expected trip to the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, and he could be a candidate for 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.

Gailey's overall record was 44-32 in six seasons, and he never lost less 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.

Overall, Georgia Tech has lost seven in a row to Georgia, its longest drought in the series.

"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."

Radakovich said business considerations were as much as part of his decision as wins and losses. 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. "There's people who enjoy doing that part of the business of being a head coach, and some that don't. 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."

Navy coach Paul Johnson, who previously coached at Georgia Southern, could be a popular choice as the new coach. Tenuta also will be a candidate if he wants to pursue the job, Radakovich said.

"There's always people you have your eye on," Radakovich said. "There's no clear-cut number one, however."

Gailey and Tenuta were expected to address the media later in the day.

Throughout the season, Radakovich steadfastly declined to give Gailey a vote of confidence, merely saying he would evaluate the program after the season. It wasn't immediately clear who would coach Georgia Tech in its expected trip to the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.

After Saturday's loss, Gailey, a former NFL head coach with the Dallas Cowboys, brushed off questions about his future.

"I'm not in charge of that," he said. "My job is to do the best job I can do."

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 that 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 with Gailey, 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.

His players seemed to sense that the end was near. After Saturday's game, senior running back Tashard Choice passed up a chance to lobby for his coach when asked what he would do.

"I don't know," Choice said. "I have the utmost respect for coach Gailey because he gave me the chance to come to Georgia Tech. Having said that, it's up to everybody else."

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.

Under O'Leary, the Yellow Jackets were a high-scoring team that beat Georgia three years in a row from 1998-2000, a streak that hastened the firing of Bulldogs coach Jim Donnan.

Mark Richt took over at Georgia in 2001 and quickly turned things around, handing O'Leary a loss in his final game at Georgia Tech. While the Bulldogs quickly rose to prominence, winning two Southeastern Conference titles and putting themselves in position for a major bowl this season, the Yellow Jackets languished in mediocrity.

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.

After his success last season, Gailey was mentioned as a possible candidate for NFL coaching jobs in Pittsburgh and Miami, two teams for which he served as offensive coordinator. He stayed at Georgia Tech, but his flirtation with the pros further damaged his standing with Georgia Tech fans.

A native of Gainesville, Ga., Gailey played quarterback at Florida in the early 1970s and got his first head coaching job at Troy State, leading the Trojans to the NCAA Division II championship in 1984.

He also had brief stints with the Birmingham Fire of the short-lived World League of American Football and Division I-AA Samford before getting his big break in 1998, when Jerry Jones hired Gailey to coach one of the NFL's most glamorous teams.

The Cowboys won the NFC East in Gailey's first season, and made the playoffs as a wild-card team the following year. But Jones fired the coach after Dallas lost its opening playoff game each time.

Gailey then spent two years as Miami's offensive coordinator before landing another head coaching job at Georgia Tech.

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