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Upper Iowa football: School officials refuse to say why Knoll was fired
Mike Knoll

FAYETTE - Upper Iowa University officials refused to divulge any details today on why football coach Mike Knoll was fired Tuesday afternoon.

"All we're saying at this point publicly is, Coach Knoll is no longer our football coach," school president Alan Walker told The Courier.

Dave Barclay, who spent 25 years as the head football coach at Starmont High School and has been on the UIU staff since 2005 as the running backs coach, will take over as interim head coach for the final three games.

Barclay, however, has no desire to be the permanent coach.

"I have no aspirations to be a head coach again," said Barclay, who compiled a 163-73 record at Starmont. "I'm getting close to 60. If I'm lucky, I hope to maybe do this for another couple of years and then hang it up. This is strictly interim."

One school official said Knoll was informed of the decision around 10 a.m. Tuesday. Walker, interim athletic director Kent McElvania and Barclay addressed the staff and team later Tuesday with the change.

"(Tuesday) was a rough day, but after we met with the kids, we had a really good practice," Barclay said. "The kids were upbeat. The thing about college kids are, they are really resilient and keep plugging away."

Knoll was 10-31 in 3 1/2 seasons with Upper Iowa, which made the transition from NCAA Division III to Division II under his leadership. The Peacocks are 1-7 this season and own a five-game losing streak heading into Saturday's Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game at Concordia-St. Paul.

Fans have been disgruntled with the program recently. During last Saturday's 40-7 loss to Augustana, instead of standing on the home sideline at Eischeid Stadium, Upper Iowa's staff decided to have the football team occupy the visiting sideline - opposite from the Peacock fans.

After losing three games by seven points or less in the first four weeks, UIU has dropped its last four contests by an average of 28.5 points per game.

"The season hasn't gone the way we wanted by any means," Barclay said. "But we're not going to make any significant changes. Everything implemented and instilled by Coach Knoll, we're going to keep doing."

In terms of finding a permanent replacement for Knoll, it won't come soon.

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Walker said today the search for an athletic director - which the school hasn't had since Gil Cloud resigned in late July - is still ongoing. The school interviewed four individuals last summer, but the search committee wanted to look at additional prospects,

"There's a very good chance we'll have someone named by the end of the year (Dec. 31)," Walker said of the athletic director post. "We're anticipating to do some more interviewing as soon as the fall sports season starts to come to an end."

Walker said the new athletic director would be responsible for hiring the next football coach. While wrestling, women's tennis and women's golf won NSIC championships last season, the football program has struggled to find success in what is now a 14-team league.

"There's no doubt it's a challenge," Walker said. "With the four new members (MSU-Mankato, Minnesota-Duluth, Augustana, S.D. and St. Cloud State), there's no question the competition has stepped up a notch.

"Once the new AD and football coach come on board, we're going to talk about a strategy we can put in place to continue to improve our level of competition."

Contact Matt Coss at (319) 291-1468 or matt.coss@wcfcourier.com

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