KSU fires men's basketball coach Tony Ingle

A program-boosting win over Georgia Tech wasn't enough to save Kennesaw State's Tony Ingle.

The Owls men's basketball coach was fired on Monday by interim athletic director Scott Whitlock, who cited the team's academic problems and not its 8-23 record as the reason.

Reached at his home, Ingle said a combination of factors, including poor recruiting, a lack of academic support personnel and problems in understanding the NCAA's academic demands, combined to end his KSU career after 11 seasons.

"It's time to move forward," said Ingle, who posted a 248-215 career coaching record.. "It hurts. I'm not going to sit here and act like it doesn't hurt. The harder you work, the harder it is to give up."

The Owls recorded the second-biggest win in school history on Nov. 15 with an 80-63 demolition of the Yellow Jackets in the second game of the season. However, KSU didn't win its next game until Jan. 3.

Earlier in 2010, the program was penalized by the NCAA with the loss of a scholarship for failing to meet the minimum score in the Academic Progress Rate (APR). It was the second consecutive year the program had been penalized, following the loss of two scholarships the previous year.

The APR uses a formula to track students' academic progress over a four-year period. A perfect score is 1,000. The NCAA demands a minimum score of 925. The Owls posted scores of 883 (2008-09) and 843 (2007-08) the past two years.

Whitlock, who said KSU has analyzed the program's academic progress over the last 12-18 months, anticipates more penalties when the next APR scores are released later this year. Under NCAA guidelines for repeated APR shortcomings, KSU stands to have two more scholarships reduced as well as a possible reduction to practice time.

“We know that this is a strong action, but it was made after extensive analysis of the past and present academic performance of the men’s basketball team," Whitlock said in the statement.

Ingle said he didn't at first fully understand the APR requirements, nor did the compliance director at the time. He said that in his effort to compete at the Division I level -- the Owls rose to D-I only two seasons ago -- he took chances on some recruits that he shouldn't have.

"We didn't have a good grip on it," he said. "So, we just made some bad decisions early. I'm the one left holding the bag, but I've been known for riding a horse until it dies and then dragging it across the line. It wasn't all my fault, but I take full responsibility."

Ingle led the Owls to the 2004 Division II national championship before the university announced it was becoming a transitional Division I team in 2005-06. They became a full-fledged member of the Atlantic Sun Conference in 2009. Ingle called the 2004 championship, and not the win over the Jackets, the biggest win in his career.

"I don't want to take anything away from beating Georgia Tech, but you don't get banners or rings for that," he said. "That one night, we were better than Georgia Tech, thank goodness.

"But I did live to see one of my dreams and that was to see the Convocation Center packed."

No interim coach has been named. None of Ingle's assistants were retained and recruits were notified of the decision, which was made over the weekend. A search committee will be formed to put together a list of possible successors.

“By taking this action,” Whitlock said, “we send a strong message to all of our coaches and to our players that our athletes are students first. They are here to gain an education and a degree. While we value our sports program and we enjoy winning, it will not be at any expense – and certainly not at the expense of students getting the education that they expect and deserve.”