MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Memphis fired coach Tommy West on Monday, saying the school wants to go in a different direction after the season.
Athletics Director R.C. Johnson said at a news conference that he met with West on Monday morning and told the coach of the university's decision. He also asked the former Clemson coach to stay through the end of the season.
When the coach had his turn at the microphone he said the university needs to put more money in the football program or shut it down. West didn't hesitate to share his feelings about the program's outdated facilities. He said there was only one answer if fans didn't demand improvements or for the university to make necessary changes.
"I couldn't say (this) as a coach, but it's too painful," West said. "It's too painful for coaches, for players, for people, for fans. Put something in it or do away with it, one or the other."
West's firing comes after the Tigers started the season 2-7 and less than 48 hours after a 56-28 loss to instate rival Tennessee.
West said taking the team in a different direction should include a commitment to improvements that bring the program up to the basic standards of other schools the Tigers compete against.
He is 49-58 in his ninth season as coach, 84-93 overall with stints at Chattanooga and Clemson. He led Memphis to five bowl games in the past six years, and he was one of only four coaches in school history with four winning seasons while coaching at least five seasons with Memphis.
"History will continue to repeat itself, folks, if they don't do something about it," West said, his voice getting louder in a fiery rant. "Whoever they hire, our fans need to demand one of two things. You have to demand you give him a equal stick to fight with within our conference. You've got to give him an equal playing field."
West was 31-28 in five-plus seasons at Clemson, taking over for Ken Hatfield with one game to go in the 1993 season. In his first game, he led Clemson to a win against Kentucky in the Peach Bowl following the '93 season. He led the Tigers to three more bowl games, all losses.
Johnson said the search for a replacement will start immediately.
West will finish his home tenure Saturday against UAB. The Tigers final two games of the season are on the road at Houston and Tulsa.
The firing comes on the heels of Saturday's woeful showing against the Volunteers, assuring Memphis (2-7, 1-4 Conference USA) of its second straight losing season and third in the past four years.
West was named the Tigers defensive coordinator in 2000, and a year later became head coach, replacing Rip Scherer. He led Memphis to three consecutive winning seasons from 2003-05 and his fifth bowl was last year's St. Petersburg Bowl.
But in recent years his teams struggled early in the season and rallied down the stretch to become bowl eligible. This year, they never recovered from a poor start and have lost three straight by wide margins.
The worst may have been a 38-19 loss to East Carolina on Oct. 27. Not only did the Tigers perform poorly on the field, but a rainy night resulted in only a couple of thousand people in the stands at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in a nationally televised game.