LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Ron Cooper was fired as Louisville football coach Wednesday in the wake of a 1-10 season, the worst season in the school's history.

Cooper had two years remaining on a five-year contract.

University president John Shumaker praised Cooper for his off-the-field accomplishments, including his handling of discipline on the team.

But athletic director Tom Jurich said the university wanted to take the football program in a new direction. The university has a new 40,000 seat stadium scheduled to open next fall, and the losing team drew only about 12,000 fans during its last home game.

However, Jurich said that the decision to fire Cooper had nothing to do with filling the new stadium.

``There's so much emotion wrapped up in this sitution,'' Jurich said.

He said it wouldn't be fair to Cooper to keep him on for another year because of all the negative reaction from fans and from boosters who earlier this month had gone so far as to offer to buy out the remainder of Cooper's contract.

``I'm sure when the university hired Ron Cooper three years ago, they had great expectations,'' Jurich said.

But he said Cooper took the ultimate decision well.

``He handled it like the gentleman that he is,'' Jurich said.

The firing ended two days of intensive meetings among Cooper, Jurich, Shumaker and university boosters.

Earlier Wednesday, Cooper said he was still working on normal coaching duties. But the decision on Cooper's fate apparently was reached during a meeting between Jurich and Shumaker.

Cooper was not present for a late-afternoon news conference in which his firing was announced. He could not be immediately reached for comment.

``Today we have made a decision to change directions in our football program,'' said Jurich, who became athletics director in October. ``As of today, Ron Cooper would be relieved of his duties.''

On Tuesday, Jurich came away from a meeting with Cooper saying he was impressed with the embattled coach and would take his time making a decision.

``It's been a very difficult three weeks that I've been on this job,'' he said. ``This is certainly the unpleasant part of it. Today is not a fun day.''

Cooper has a 13-20 record in three years at Louisville. He has two years left on a five-year contract, estimated at $600,000 to $800,000.