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Gators coach Zook fired but will finish season

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Ron Zook was fired Monday but will finish the season, a university source told The Associated Press on Monday.

The move comes after Florida (4-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) lost 38-31 on Saturday to Mississippi State, which was just 1-5 entering that game.

It was Florida's 13th loss in three seasons under Zook, hired in 2002 to replace Steve Spurrier, who led Florida to a national championship in 1996.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley told The Gainesville Sun that he and school president Bernie Machen met Sunday, then informed Zook of the decision Monday morning, the newspaper reported on its Web site.

Calls to Foley by The Associated Press were not immediately returned.

A news conference was scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Zook went 8-5 in his first two years at Florida. The Gators started 4-3 in 2002 before reeling off four straight victories. They opened 3-3 in 2003 — sparking speculation the coach would be fired — but then won five games in a row.

The Gators have had several late collapses in losses, including against Tennessee and LSU this season. And they have fallen out of The Associated Press Top 25 for the third straight year, after being voted No. 11 in the preseason poll.

Off the field, Zook got into a heated confrontation with several members of a fraternity last month while defending his players, behavior Foley called unacceptable and said would factor into a decision on Zook's future.

"Any time a fellow coach is fired, that's disappointing," Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said Monday. "Ron's a good football coach who has had an excellent career. I hate that he and his coaching staff and their families have to go through that. We know this is part of the business, but it's not a part of the business that any of us enjoy."