Wake Forest started 2000 with seven straight losses and finished 2-9 overall and 1-7 in the ACC. The team's only victories were over Navy and Duke, both of whom went winless.
Athletic director Ron Wellman said he had a two-hour meeting with Caldwell on Sunday afternoon. The two parted and then Wellman called his football coach hours later to tell him he was terminated.
"Jim's response was completely professional," Wellman said. "He was appreciative of the opportunity and he had suggestions for the future as to his successor and what could make our program better."
Caldwell did not attend the Sunday night news conference or release a statement. His telephone number is unlisted.
Wellman did not elaborate on suggestions Caldwell had to improve the Demon Deacons, who have had just 10 winning seasons since the ACC was founded in 1953.
"When I had the opportunity to hire Jim at Wake Forest I did," Wellman said. "And I'm not sorry for that because I happen to think Jim did a very, very good job here.
"We don't shy away from the fact that we want to win at Wake Forest and we fell short in wins and losses. I think we can do it all. I think we can have a very, very competitive program at Wake Forest. That's what we strive to do and that's what we're going to do. That is the only area that Jim fell short."
In Caldwell's final game Saturday, Wake Forest led North Carolina State by 11 late in the third quarter, but gave up 29 straight points in a 32-14 loss.
"That game did not cost Jim his job," Wellman said.
Caldwell, 45, is the third ACC coach fired in the last seven days, joining Maryland's Ron Vanderlinden and North Carolina's Carl Torbush. He began the season with only five returning starters the lowest total in the nation.
Virginia coach George Welsh has also said he'll spend this week meeting with athletic director Terry Holland to decide if he's going to return for a 20th year.
Caldwell was 26-63 in eight seasons at Wake Forest, including 1-10 in 1995. The Demon Deacons won more than three games just twice under Caldwell.
"You need to be competitive," said senior linebacker Nick Bender. "It's inevitable that something like this was going to happen. Nothing lasts forever. There are very few coach who can rank up there with (Joe) Paterno and be somewhere forever.
"A positive thing about this is if you look at the trend in the ACC lately teams with new coaches have been really competitive and really successful."
The Demon Deacons had their only winning season under Caldwell last year 7-5 and went to the Jeep Aloha Bowl, their first postseason appearance since 1992.
Caldwell also has been an assisant at Penn State, Louisville, Colorado, Northwestern and Southern Illinois in his 22-year career. He became the first black head football coach in ACC history in 1993, when he replaced Bill Dooley.
"Nobody really knows how to deal with losing a coach," sophomore wide receiver Fabian Davis said. "In a sense, it's like losing a family member because he brought you here and he looked after you. It's like you've lost something in you."
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