Ellis Out As Auburn Basketball Coach

Cliff Ellis was fired on Thursday from his post as AU basketball coach.

Auburn, Ala.--Cliff Ellis, head coach of the Auburn basketball Tigers for the past 10 seasons, was fired in a brief meeting at Samford Hall with Auburn University interim president Dr. Ed Richardson on Thursday.

Ellis just completed a disappointing 14-14 season that was one year removed from a run into the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. However, Ellis, who has coached the Tigers for 10 seasons, won't get a chance for an 11th season as he was terminated. As for his assistant coaches, university officials said it will be up to the person who is hired as the new coach to determine if Shannon Weaver, Charlton Young, Tracy Dildy and Jacob Ridenhour will be retained.

Ellis did not comment immediately after leaving his meeting with the interim president, did issue a statement and added comments later in the day. Richardson would not take questions on the subject, but did issue a brief statement. "I met with Coach Ellis this morning and informed him that a change in the leadership of our basketball program was needed," Richardson said. "My evaluation of the program indicates to me that we need to move in a different direction.

"I am aware of the many accomplishments of Coach Ellis in his tenure here. I appreciate what he has done with the program. It is simply time for a change," Richardson said.

Last Thursday in Atlanta, following a disappointing showing in a first round loss to Georgia in the SEC Tournament, Ellis said he was surprised the question of his job status with the Tigers was even broached at his postgame press conference.

Auburn officials have already begun a search for a replacement for Ellis, who had five years left on his contract, which will be bought out for $750,000, which is approximately one year's compensation for the head coach.

Ellis, who has been a college head coach for three decades, had a record of 186-124 at Auburn following the 73-59 loss to Georgia in the SEC Tournament. Ellis and the Tigers were hoping for a postseason bid to the National Invitational Tournament despite the setback in Atlanta, but an invitation did not come.

Ellis took over the Auburn program for the 1994-95 season and the Tigers were one of the pleasant surprise teams in the SEC with a 16-13 overall mark and a 7-9 league record. That team earned an NIT bid and the Tigers also played in the NIT in 1996, 1998 and 2001.

The Tigers made an NCAA Tournament appearance under Ellis in 1998-99 when AU won the second SEC men's basketball title in school history with a 14-2 league mark and a 29-4 overall record. That team advanced to the Sweet 16. His 2000 squad made the second round of the NCAA Tournament and last year's advanced to the Sweet 16, losing by a single point to national champion Syracuse. AU did not go to the NCAA or NIT tournaments in 1997, 2002 and again this year.

Ellis began his collegiate career at Cumberland College where he posted a 78-12 record. He was 171-84 in nine years at South Alabama and 177-128 in 10 years at Clemson.

Ellis was named 1999 National Coach of the Year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News and Basketball News. He also won the John Wooden Award that is presented annually to the national coach of the year.

The negatives on his Auburn resume include having seven seasons in which the Tigers had a losing record in SEC play. His overall regular season league record was 73-87.

Ellis also drew criticism for not scheduling enough attractive non-conference opponents.

Although he was not named in the NCAA's investigation into Auburn's basketball recruiting, Ellis and his program appeared before the NCAA Committee on Infractions and are awaiting a decision from that group that is expected later this month or in April.

His 2003-2004 Auburn team was forecast to place second the SEC West, but finished fourth with a league record of 5-11 after getting off to a solid start in non-conference play even without the services of starting point guard Lewis Monroe, who was injured in the preseason and struggled after his return to action during conference play.

The Tigers ended the season with four juniors and one freshman in the starting lineup and the only senior on the 2003-2004 season who saw significant playing time was center Kyle Davis, who lost his starting job during the season.

Following Ellis' termination, Auburn Athletic Director David Housel, said, "We all appreciate Coach Ellis' many contributions to Auburn and to our basketball program. I think we as an athletic department, as a university and as a community should thank Coach Ellis and his wife, Carolyn, for helping make Auburn a better place to live, to learn and to compete.

"As much as we appreciate Coach Ellis' accomplishments and contributions, we have not consistently met our minimum competitive goals, which include a winning Southeastern Conference record, being a force in the SEC and making the NCAA Tournament on a consistent basis," Housel said. "That does not in any way lessen our appreciation for Coach Ellis, for his efforts, his success and his accomplishments."

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