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Nov. 8, 2007, 6:42PM
Baylor football coach Morriss out in 5th season

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Guy Morriss won't be back next season after failing to produce a winning season or bowl in five years at Baylor, two people close to the athletic program told the Houston Chronicle on Thursday.

Morriss, 56, who has one year remaining on his contract, will remain with the Bears for the final two games of the season against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

The Bears are 3-7 this season, guaranteeing a 12th straight losing season, and have not been bowl eligible since 1994.

The search for a replacement is expected to begin with Pro Football Hall of Famer and Baylor legend Mike Singletary. Singletary, who has been an NFL assistant coach the last five years, interviewed for the job before Morriss was hired in 2002.

Morriss' departure marks the fourth coaching change for the Bears since Grant Teaff retired after 21 seasons in 1992.

Morriss is 18-38 in five seasons at Baylor. The Bears have lost 10 consecutive Big 12 games dating back to last season, including six this season by an average 30 points.

Baylor does not have to release contract details because it's a private school. It will cost the school less than $1 million to buy out the remaining year of Morriss' contract, according to a person close to the athletic program.

Baylor athletic officials have declined comment on Morriss' future since the offseason, although it became clear that anything short of a post-season appearance could put his job in jeopardy.

``That's stuff I can't control and don't know anything about,'' Morriss said earlier this week when asked about his future. ``I'm not going to worry about that. We just need to focus on playing and basically see what happens from there.''

A Baylor spokesman denied that any decision has been made and said athletic director Ian McCraw will re-evaluate Morriss at season's end.

In an interview with the Chronicle in May, Morriss said he was optimistic about the direction of the program and was willing to discuss a contract extension with the school.

``For us to get a complete turnaround is going to take some time,`` Morriss said at the Big 12 spring meetings. ``We always talk about it didn't get in a ditch overnight, and it's not going to come out of the ditch overnight.''

The last four football coaches at Baylor have combined for 105 losses, the same total for Teaff during his tenure from 1972-92.

``Baylor went through times where it under-invested in football," McCraw said in May. ``Part of that led to some of the down years.''

Morriss has been the Bears' most successful football coach since joining the Big 12. The Bears had improved their win total in conference play each of the last three years before this season. Last season, Baylor won back-to-back Big 12 games for the first time and swept all three games from North opponents.

The closest the Bears have come to reaching the six victories needed to be bowl eligible came in 2005, when they finished 5-6 and lost to A&M in overtime and Oklahoma in double overtime. Last season, Baylor was 4-4 when quarterback Shawn Bell suffered torn knee ligaments against the Aggies, and the Bears ended the season with four consecutive losses by an average of 28 points.

Baylor began this season 3-1 but was unable to carry the momentum into Big 12 play. Baylor has been outscored 255-73 in its six conference losses.

Singletary was a three-time All-American while at Baylor from 1977-80 and considered the best player in school history. When he interviewed for the Baylor job in 2002, school administrators cited Singletary's lack of coaching experience before offering the job to Morriss.

Singletary has spent the last five seasons as an NFL assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens but still hasn't been a head coach.

Another concern regarding Singletary is whether he would be able to leave his obligations with the 49ers before January, which could put the Bears in a disadvantage in recruiting with signing day in early February.

Singletary still has strong ties to the school and his two children are currently students at Baylor, including his son, Matt, who is a freshman defensive end on the team.

Other names that could surface early in the coaching search are University of Houston coach Art Briles and Boise State's Chris Peterson.

joseph.duarte@chron.com



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