CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Earl Monroe's seven-year stint as coach of the West Virginia State football team came to an end Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after the Yellow Jackets concluded a 2-9 season with a 62-0 loss to rival Charleston.Monroe said he met with members of the State administration earlier in the day and was informed of their decision to let him go."I was told after the game Saturday that I needed to meet the AD in the office Sunday morning," said Monroe. "And they gave me my papers. From what I understand, it wasn't [Saturday's game]. The decision had been made previously."Indeed, State athletic director Sean Loyd said the school is constantly evaluating its sports programs and the decision to fire Monroe wasn't based on the football team's performance against UC."You have to look at ways to improve and tweak things," said Loyd. "It wasn't a knee-jerk type of reaction. We felt the need to move in a different direction."After meeting with administrators, Monroe had a brief opportunity to meet with his players."It was unbelievable, as could be expected," Monroe said of breaking the news to the players. "They were tore up, as was the staff. I didn't really have time to talk to them, so they've been texting me wanting to talk to me. I've been getting texts all day, guys wanting to say goodbye. I'll be around. Hopefully I can talk to them all."
Monroe had been associated with the school since 1987, when the former Miami (Fla.) Hurricane joined the program as a volunteer assistant. He became defensive coordinator in 1996 and, when Carl Lee resigned as head coach on Feb. 3, 2006, Monroe took over on an interim basis, overseeing spring practice and recruiting. Weeks later, on May 18, State removed the interim tag and handed the reins of the program to Monroe.Success came quickly for Monroe as the Jackets won five games in his first season at the helm. A pair of 7-3 seasons followed in 2007 and 2008 - State had not enjoyed a winning season since 1992.Fortunes quickly turned after the 2008 season, though. The Jackets were 3-7 in 2009 and have won only three games combined in the three seasons since, including an 0-10 mark in 2010. From 2009 through the recently completely season, State compiled a 4-28 mark in the West Virginia Conference.
Monroe points to a lack of scholarships and aging facilities as one reason for the program's sudden decline."There were promises of increasing scholarships, trying to get us closer to a level playing field [with other teams in the WVC] and talk of building new facilities," he said. "We've been here trying to hold the program afloat with one third of what other teams have."Loyd said the school was committed to supporting its not only the football program, but all of its sports."When we go through the evaluation process, that's something that we always look at," said Loyd. "Any school our size is always looking at ways to improve, and we have a couple things, in terms of facilities, we're raising funds to build. But we have to look at those kind of things with all our sports and see where they have needs."Most [Division II] schools, none of the sports are fully funded and you have to be creative to prop them up, so to speak. We're always looking at that with all our sports. We're committed to trying to improve the overal student-athlete experience across the board."
For Loyd and the W.Va. State administration, the next move is beginning a national search for Monroe's replacement. Until a new coach can be found, Monroe's staff will be retained to oversee the day-to-day operation of the program and continue recruiting."We're going to start a national search immediately," said Loyd. "We're going to work as swiftly as we can through the process to make sure we get a qualified candidate in a short amount of time. We're going to work swiftly but at the same time make sure we're thorough with the process. This is a very important hire, so we have to make sure we are very thorough."As for Monroe, the next step has yet to be determined."I don't know. It's just too quick to even make a statement about what my next move is. It's only been hours," he said Sunday as he cleaned out his office and prepared to leave a school he had been associated with for more than two decades. "It's in the back of your mind, you're having a bad season and the [school] president comes in and says you've got to win football games ... You don't have time to worry about what you're going to do if you get fired because we put all our effort into winning football games."It is what it is and we'll move on from here. We tell our kids this game prepares you for life. And in life there are wins and there are losses and you've got to prepare for both. You just have to turn the page. Some time tonight, I'm going to turn the page."Reach Jeff Rider at 304-348-5122 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/gazette_gamer.