Steve Tosches, who led Princeton to one outright Ivy League football championship and a share of two others in 13 seasons as coach, was fired Tuesday, days after the Tigers' first last-place finish in 23 years.
"We have elected to go in a different direction at this point," Princeton athletic director Gary Walters said.
Tosches, who had one winning season in the last four years, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
Walters said senior administrators have been evaluating the football program, and that he and Tosches were discussing the situation Tuesday morning when the coach decided to submit his resignation.
Two sources close to the university and the league, speaking on the condition they not be identified, told The Associated Press that Tosches was fired.
Walters refused comment when asked if Tosches was fired or if he was told during the morning meeting that he would not be coaching the team next year.
While Princeton won three titles under Tosches, it has had only one winning season since 1995, when it captured its first outright title since 1964.
The Tigers were 3-7 this season, including 1-6 in the league. The season ended with Princeton wasting an 18-0, fourth-quarter lead against Dartmouth and losing 19-18.
Tosches; teams went 78-50-2, but just 17-23 in the past four seasons. The Tigers were 6-16 in games decided by a touchdown or less over the past four years, including 1-6 during the last two.
Senior Ryan Demler of Escondido, Calif., said it was hard not to like Tosches and his staff, but the safety added that the last four years have been disappointing.
"Over my career here, with so many misfortunes, so many close games and stuff, you'd think that he was unlucky," Demler said. "But on the other hand, when it becomes a trend that you are on the losing side of that coin, you just have to address it as a problem."
Tosches was hired in the summer of 1987 after coach Ron Rogerson died of a heart attack. Tosches had been Rogerson's offensive coordinator at Maine and Princeton.
Princeton won its first title under Tosches in 1989, sharing the crown with Yale. Three years later, Princeton and Dartmouth were co-champions.
Princeton won the title outright in 1995, going 8-1-1.
"When I came here, we came off a championship season so it's disappointing," Demler said. "The fact that we never beat Harvard, never beat Penn, those things are what are going to stir up a lot of anger, especially from alumni and, of course, the athletic department."
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