With the bulk of his football team returning next season, Woodrow Wilson coach Luther Howard figured his Tigers were about to make a revival.
Instead, Howard has been told his services are no longer needed.
Howard, 58, confirmed yesterday he had been fired after two seasons at Wilson, during which the Tigers went 3-17. Wilson was 2-8 last year, but it will return 14 starters - nine on offense - in 2008.
"I had a plan and a timetable, and I thought things were going as expected," Howard said. "I finally had some good coaches on the staff, and I thought we were on our way to turning the program around."
"I don't want to discuss anything about it," Wilson athletic director Marvin Hamilton said.
Howard said Wilson administrators met with him recently and outlined the reasons for his dismissal.
"Their expectations were different as far as wins and losses," he said. "They mentioned that some of the parents at the middle school were not sure where they were going to send their kids; the enrollment had dropped and they thought it had something to do with the football program."
Howard said many of Wilson's athletic programs have had a decline in participants.
"The baseball team dropped its program [recently], and the basketball team only had eight players left," he said. "I think it's an internal problem more than the athletic program."
Howard said that Wilson's football facilities are "horrible" and that the football program receives little support from the administration.
"We had no cheerleaders or band at our games my first year, and last year they were there for maybe two games," he said. "Our scoreboard didn't work until the Turkey Day game, and the facilities, compared to surrounding schools, are horrible."
He cited the school's dilapidated stadium and locker rooms.
"They want to know why enrollment is where it is, that's part of it," he said. "If I was a parent sending someone to school, I would take that into consideration myself."
Howard, who will remain at Wilson as a health and physical-education teacher, has also been a head coach at Camden and Cinnaminson. A former NFL player with the Cleveland Browns, Howard has been an assistant at Palmyra, Willingboro and Rancocas Valley.
In his first year at Wilson, Howard's Tigers went 1-9, a season that was marred by a catastrophic injury to Shykem "Shaka" Lawrence, who was paralyzed in a preseason game at Eastern.
The injury caused some players to quit and some to be tentative, Howard said.
Lawrence died of complications related to the paralysis Oct. 12 - 16 months after he sustained the injury.
Howard downplayed his won-lost record.
"I want to build a program and develop boys into men and teach character," he said. "I have major responsibility as a coach, and we did some good things with the kids. We took them to clinics and exposed them to different environments. We took three of the kids to Houston as part of the NFL's player-development program and went into a national 7-on-7 passing tournament."
Howard said he was unsure if he would pursue another coaching position.