COLUMBUS, OHIO, NOV. 16 -- Earle Bruce, who had the best overall record of Big Ten coaches during his nine seasons, was fired today as Ohio State football coach after three straight losses.

Athletic Director Rick Bay quit in protest after announcing the dismissal.

Bay said Bruce's firing would be effective after Saturday's game at archrival Michigan, the regular-season finale. He also said the Buckeyes would not accept a bowl bid even if one were offered; they have gone every year since 1971. Ohio State is 5-4-1 following three straight losses by a combined 10 points.

"I guess they've got a right to fire a guy," Bruce said. "I think it's very poor timing, right before the Michigan game, the most important game on our schedule. They can do it any time, but not before the Michigan game."

Bruce, at his weekly luncheon today, said he would not quit despite intense fan criticism. That was before Bay said Ohio State President Edward Jennings told him he was "under pressure to make a coaching change and we had to do that," although Bruce has a year left on his contract.

Jennings said he would recommend James L. Jones, senior associate director of athletics, to the board of trustees to replace Bay, a Michigan alumnus who had been athletic director since 1984. There was no definitive speculation immediately on a successor to Bruce who is 80-26-1 with the Buckeyes and took them to two Rose Bowls.