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Bama seeks proven head coach to replace Gottfried

TUSCALOOSA — Alabama athletic director Mal Moore said Tuesday he is looking for a “proven head coach” to replace Mark Gottfried and that declining attendance and struggles over the past two seasons were behind Gottfried’s midseason resignation.

“It was a couple of years now building and it built to a point that there was a lot of uncomfortable situations with where we were and where we were going, the lack of attendance, the lack of direction in the team at this point,” Moore said in a news conference. “We just felt that we needed to go ahead and make the decision.”

The university also released the severance agreement in Gottfried’s contract. He will be paid some $2.2 million through monthly installments of $75,000 because the coach was terminated without cause after agreeing to resign.

“I asked him to come to my office to discuss this and he offered his resignation,” Moore said.

Assistant Philip Pearson is serving as interim coach for the rest of the season, starting with Thursday night’s game at Arkansas.

The Crimson Tide is off to a 12-7 start, has lost three of five Southeastern Conference games and appears likely to miss the NCAA tournament for the third straight season.

Plus, senior point guard Ronald Steele quit the team. Moore didn’t say that was a trigger to the coaching change.

“I wouldn’t identify that or any other one thing,” he said. “It was a number of things that have been weighing on the program for a couple of years now, the direction mainly that we were going. It’s been a tough situation for coach and he had some tough breaks along the way, but we were losing ground, I think, with our fan base, with the support, with the excitement that we expect and want from this team.”

Alabama is eighth in the Southeastern Conference in attendance, averaging 9,560 for home games.

Pearson doesn’t appear to be a candidate for the job since he lacks head coaching experience.

“We are looking for a proven head coach, without a question,” Moore said. “And I’ve said that to him.”

Moore said the immediate priority will be to identify the top two or three candidates for the job over the next few weeks, with the help of executive director of athletics Dave Hart.

He didn’t rule out making a move before the season’s end. Moore’s last high-profile coaching hire was football coach Nick Saban, who received a then-record $4 million-a-year deal two years ago.

“We want to find a coach that we feel can keep us in the championship picture, where we are competing for the SEC championship and NCAA tournament play, that can take us as deep in that tournament as possible,” Moore said.