Southern Illinois fires coach Lennon

(STATS) – Dale Lennon was fired after eight seasons as Southern Illinois coach Monday, having struggled to maintain his early success with the Salukis.

The popular Lennon, who will turn 55 in two weeks, posted a 51-42 record at SIU, but the Salukis were only 31-37 over the last six seasons. His teams were 36-28 in Missouri Valley Conference action.

Lennon will receive a $55,000 buyout for the final year of his contract, which had an annual salary of $220,788.

“Dale and his staff directed the program with class and integrity,” athletic director Tommy Bell said. “After a great deal of thought and consultation, I determined it was time for a change in the leadership of our football program.”

Southern Illinois was 50-14 in the five seasons prior to Lennon's arrival in December 2007. But after going 20-5 with two Missouri Valley titles and FCS playoff appearances under Lennon in 2008 and '09, the Salukis fell to 5-6 in 2010 and never returned to prominence, with recruiting sagging along with the results.

This year's team lost its final four games to finish 3-8 overall and 2-6 in conference play.

“It is with deep disappointment and sadness that I leave Southern Illinois University. It has been a privilege to coach this team,” Lennon said.

Lennon could draw interest elsewhere. He led North Dakota to an NCAA Division II title in 2001 and a national runner-up finish in 2003.

In addition to guiding UND from 1999-2007, Lennon was the head coach at the University of Mary in 1997-98. His overall record is 153-75 (.671).