Tulane athletics source confirms Curtis Johnson to part ways with Wave

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Head coach Curtis Johnson announced the hiring of Carter Sheridan to serve as the new wide receivers coach and the promotion of Jason Rollins to co-defensive coordinator Tuesday. 

Jonathan Harvey, Senior Staff Reporter

Tulane football hit its boiling point after the 49-21 blowout loss to then one-win Southern Methodist on Nov. 21, and news broke Thanksgiving eve, as USA Today reported that Tulane plans to part ways with head football coach Curtis Johnson at season’s end Friday.

Despite this response from Assistant Athletics Director for Athletics Communications Roger Dunaway, the reports were confirmed to The Hullabaloo by a separate internal source within Tulane Athletics that Tulane will indeed let go of the fourth-year head coach after the Green Wave concludes its season against Tulsa Friday.

The source within Tulane Athletics spoke to The Hullabaloo on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the situation.

Tulane football has had two straight losing seasons since Johnson’s three-year contract extension after the Green Wave’s 2013-14 campaign, when the team made a postseason bowl bid. His extended contract was set to expire in 2020.

The decision to fire the coach stemmed from the two losing seasons, the source said, with records considered “inexcusable” from the Board of Tulane’s perspective. Johnson’s rosters have held high expectations amongst members of the board, and many questioned his ability to properly manage the football team. Tulane football’s special team’s play in particular has raised concerns on the team’s discipline, as the Wave have botched numerous snap exchanges this season among other lapses, and the team has committed several key penalties on both sides of the ball which has consistently stalled the team’s success. 

According to teamrankings.com, The Wave averaged six penalties per game this year, an improvement from the 7.1 the season prior, yet the penalties have dropped significantly in recent weeks, as the Green Wave has averaged 2.7 penalties over the past three weeks.

The Wave has also been outscored 122-37 in the fourth quarter of games this season, and has already given up 390 points this season with one game remaining, 49 points more than last season.

Before replacing Johnson, the board’s focus is hiring the new Athletic Director, the source said, as current Athletic Director Rick Dickson announced he’s stepping down at year’s end. The decision on Dickson’s successor could be announced within the week, and no later than Dec. 10, as the search has been narrowed down to three candidates, according to the source. 

The source continued that the board will not base its Athletic Director hire on which specific football coach that candidate can bring. Though some initial names have been thrown around, that search will not commence until a new Athletic Director is announced.

But the Athletic Director’s search for a coach, unlike Johnson’s former experience in the NFL and New Orleans, will primarily focus on top up-and-coming coordinators and assistant coaches from established collegiate programs who want the challenge of building a winning culture at a school with little success in recent history.

Though Tulane will target proven coaches in the college circuit, NBC’s Fletcher Mackel reported that if Assistant Athletic Director Barbara Burke becomes Tulane’s next Athletic Director, former Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan would be a candidate for the head coaching vacancy. 

In the two seasons after the contract extension, the Wave has a combined 6-17 record, and the coach has a total 15-33 mark in his four seasons.