UPDATE: Gene Cross resignsWritten by Chris Schmidbauer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
UT Athletics Director Mike O’Brien announced today that UT men’s basketball coach Gene Cross has decided to resign from the post.
“At this time Gene has decided to pursue other opportunities in the college basketball world,” O’Brien said. “We wish him well and thank him for the work he did on behalf of our men’s basketball program.”
Cross’s resignation comes on the heels of a 4-28 record, the worst in the history of Rocket basketball. His overall record at UT was 11-53 in two seasons as head coach.
While Cross was not available to speak directly with the media today, he did thank the university for his time as head coach via a press release.
“I appreciate the opportunity to have been head basketball at head coach here at UT,” Cross said. “I enjoyed my time trying to change the lives of these young men. It is with mixed emotions that I have chosen to move on at this time to pursue other career opportunities.”
The news come as a surprise as Cross seemed optimistic when he spoke with Toledo Free Press staff writer Scott Calhoun last week. When asked about the team’s season, Cross said he was confident about the team’s future last Saturday.
“Look at this as a motion picture and not as a standstill snapshot,” he said. “We’re trying to establish a new system here. What’s going on right now will benefit this team so much in the future.”
However the resignation was not a surprise according to O’Brien, who said that the conversation about Cross’s future with the team had been ongoing over the last few days.
“Gene and I have been talking over the past few days about his situation here,” he said. “It was a surprise to a point, but it’s not a total shock.”
After a win against Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne early last December, the Rockets suffered through an 18-game losing streak, including 14 consecutive Mid-American Conference losses. A 48-45 win over Ball State in the team’s home finale at Savage Arena on February 27 saved UT from possibly enduring its first ever winless MAC season. In two seasons under Cross, the team is just 0-31 on the road as well.
While the school has struggled on the court, the team has also struggled off it as well. Cross has had several players transfer or leave the team during his tenure, including Stephen Albrecht, who was the team’s second leading scorer at the time of his departure.
Making matters worse, the basketball attendance dropped at Savage Arena this season, with the home attendance average falling from 5,610 a year ago to 3,953 this year.
O’Brien was quick to squash any perception that Cross was being fired by UT due to lack of performance or poor attendance, and the decision to resign was made by Cross and not the university.
“This was Gene’s decision,” he said. “The perception that he was fired due to this season’s performance is incorrect.”
O’Brien announced that a national search is already under way to find the next head coach of UT basketball, but there is no set time table to find a replacement. He said the university is looking for the best candidate, and O’Brien is confident that despite recent numbers, the position will attract many highly qualified candidates.
“Gene has assembled some great talent here at UT,” he said. “Our facilities coupled with our young talent, make this position a highly attractive one. We know there will be interest in our program.”
Cross will be paid his monthly salary until August 1, 2010. Until a new replacement is found, assistant coach Bob Sundvold will serve as the team’s acting head coach.
Toledo Free Press Staff writer Scott Calhoun contributed to this report.