Los Angeles Bob Toledo was fired by UCLA on Monday because first-year athletic director Dan Guerrero felt the program wasn't heading in the right direction and wouldn't turn around unless a change was made.
"We need to raise the bar, we need to start winning Pac-10 championships again," Guerrero said at a news conference.
"The issue was clearly one I had to make in the best interests of the program. The tough thing was this was Bob Toledo, he's a good man."
The Bruins are 7-5 this season, including a 52-21 loss to No. 5 Southern California on Nov. 23 and a 48-27 loss to No. 7 Washington State on Saturday.
Toledo won't coach UCLA in the Dec. 25 Las Vegas Bowl, where the Bruins will play New Mexico. Ed Kezirian, assistant director of academic services, will serve as interim head coach.
Toledo wasn't available for comment, but issued a statement that read in part: "I came to UCLA with class and dignity and I will leave with class and dignity. I have nothing but great things to say about UCLA."
Toledo coached UCLA to a school-record 20-game winning streak in 1997-98, but the Bruins have gone 24-24 since and have lost four straight to Southern California :quot; the last two by a combined 58 points.
The 56-year-old Toledo guided UCLA to a 49-32 record in seven seasons, the third-most wins for a football coach in school history. He succeeded Terry Donahue, who retired in 1995 after coaching the Bruins for 20 seasons and is now general manager of the San Francisco 49ers.
Toledo is the first football coach fired by UCLA since Bill Barnes was let go after the 1964 season.
Guerrero said Toledo was "ready for this decision" when the two met early Monday.
Guerrero, who succeeded Peter Dalis as athletic director last July, said the move wasn't based on one game or one season.
Kezirian, a Bruins assistant from 1982-92, said he will handle the administrative end with other members of the coaching staff handling the decision-making process.
"It's a sad day for UCLA football," Kezirian said.
Toledo had a rollover six-year contract. The buyout consists of one year of the full package of $578,000 and five years at the base salary of $153,000, the school said.
Guerrero said a national search for a successor would begin immediately. He said he hadn't contacted anyone, but several potential candidates had already expressed interest.
"What I want is the best coach that fits the profile, is the best coach for us," Guerrero said. "We'll look and see what's out there, who is the best fit. I think we can attract a top-notch coach to UCLA."
Guerrero said he was looking for someone who knows about West Coast and Pac-10 football, preferably someone who has been successful as a head coach. But he wouldn't rule out hiring an offensive or defensive coordinator.
UCLA won its last 10 games in 1997 and was on the verge of playing in the national championship game the following year, winning its first 10 games before losing at Miami 49-45. The Bruins then lost 38-31 to Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
UCLA was 4-7 in 1999 and 6-6 in 2000 including a 21-20 loss to Wisconsin in the Sun Bowl.
The Bruins won their first six games in 2001 to rise to No. 4 in the rankings, but then lost four straight before beating Arizona State to finish the season 7-4.