Notre Dame Fires Coach Willingham

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Coach Tyrone Willingham (search) was fired by Notre Dame (search) on Tuesday after three seasons in which he failed to return one of the nation's most storied football programs to prominence.

Willingham had a record of 21-15, including 6-5 this season. The Fighting Irish lost 41-10 to No. 1 Southern California on Saturday.

It was not immediately clear whether Willingham would coach the team at the Insight Bowl (search) on Dec. 28. Notre Dame accepted the invitation to the game on Sunday.

Athletic director Kevin White scheduled a news conference for later Tuesday.

Willingham's firing comes after a season that saw the Irish pull off upset victories over Michigan and Tennessee, but also suffer blowout defeats to USC and Purdue.

Notre Dame's 41-10 loss to top-ranked USC on Saturday marked the fifth time the Irish lost by 31 points or more in three years under Willingham. By comparison, former coach Bob Davie's team had just one such loss. Lou Holtz and Dan Devine had none.

The firing of Willingham was unexpected as Notre Dame as no recent coach was forced out in less than five seasons, the time during which Gerry Faust and Davie held the job.

Notre Dame hired Willingham, the first black head coach in any sport for the Irish, away from Stanford to replace George O'Leary, the former Georgia Tech coach who resigned five days after taking the job because he lied about his academic and athletic achievements on his resume.

In his first season, Willingham had many fans recalling Notre Dame's glory days, taking over a losing squad and turning things around immediately. The Irish won eight straight to start the season before finishing 10-3.

But during his second year, the Irish fell to 5-7, with four of their losses were by 26 points or more. It was Notre Dame's third losing record in five seasons for the first time in 115 years of Irish football.