Bob Tallent, who is in midseason said George Washington University did not have the recruiting budget or flexible academic requirements to be competitive in the Eastern Eight Conference, was fired yesterday after seven seasons as the Colonial basketball coach.
In a prepared statement, Bob Faris, GW's athletic director, said, in part: "The basketball program is moving in the wrong direction, and we felt a change was necessary at this time. This (8-19) season has been most disappointing, especially the nine losses on our home court. . . . We have an outstanding unviversity, excellent academic stature and the finest oncampus arena in the District of Columbia. For those reasons, we believe we can be very competitive in the Eastern Eight and NCAA Division I basketball."
Faris, in a telephone interview later, said the decision to fire Tallent, the second winningest basketball coach in the school's history, was made at a recent meeting between Faris and Lloyd Elliott, GW's president. "We would have reevaluated it" if the Colonials had beaten Duquesne in the first round of the league playoffs Tuesday night, Faris said.
GW lost in overtime, 84-78. The Colonials have never won a tournament game in the six years of the Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League and its successor, the Eastern Athletic Association, which is generally called the Eastern Eight.
Tuesday night's loss finished GW's worst season since a 5-19 record in 1967-68, the season before Tallent became associated with the school as a player. Tallent's GW record was 102-84.
Tallent, 34, was notified of his dismissal by Faris late yesterday afternoon. His wife said he was unavailable for comment and "probably out having a couple of beers." Tallent reportedly took the news hard. He had said Monday he felt his job was secure for another year, even though he has been on one-year contracts the last two season.
His assistants, Len Baltimore and Rick French, also were fired, Faris said.
Faris said a search committee will be appointed to find a new coach. Sources close to the situation said the decision will be made by Elliott, Faris and Edward Caress, the school's NCAA faculty representative.
Tallent's best season was 1975-76 when the team was 20-7. He has been under .500 two of the last three seasons. In a story in The Washington Post five weeks ago, Tallent said his recruiting budget was $10,000 from the university and another $2,000-$4,000 from Colonials Inc., a booster group. The figures were confirmed by other university sources.
Faris, in his statement, called those figures erroneous. He said later the university spends "two to three times the amount you put in the paper." At the time, Faris called GW's recruiting budget adequate.
Faris reiterated yesterday that GW will not have a double standard for admitting athletes. At least six of the conference members, including four major state universities, will admit an athlete who has a 2.0 high-school grade point average, the only NCAA requisite for scholarship eligibility.
Sources at GW say that Faris had been quietly making inquiries about raising more recruiting money through private contributions. When asked, he had said: "If it takes more money, we'll have to got out and raise it."