In a decision that’s not entirely unexpected, UNC Charlotte is letting go of head coach Brad Lambert and is opening up a national search to fill the position immediately.
Director of Athletics Mike Hill said in a statement Sunday that the move to fire Lambert reflects the schools decision to “make a change in [the] football program.”
“It is a decision I made after an opportunity to assess my first football season here,” Hill said. “It’s about the trajectory of the program and putting us in the best position for the future. We elected to make this decision now so that we could begin the search immediately.”
Hill came on as athletic director in March, having succeeded former director Judy Rose who retired after a 42-year career. Upon his arrival, he said he’d be assessing Lambert throughout this season, which has seen a 4-7 record so far with one game left to play.
Lambert is the only coach the program has known. During his time with the 49ers, he put together a 21-48 record in the program’s first six seasons.
During Lambert’s time with UNCC, the team never finished with a winning record. A highlight of the coach’s tenure was the 2016 season when the football team won games against traditional league powers Southern Miss and Marshall. There had been hopes that the 49ers would make a bowl game the next season, but the team finished 2017 with a 1-11 record.
In Sunday’s statement, Hill thanked Lambert for taking on the challenge of building UNCC’s football program.
“We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to coach Lambert for the foundation he established, the culture that he built and the student-athletes he brought into our program,” Hill said. “Like many of his players, he took a tremendous leap of faith when he took on the challenge of building our program. Our program is on solid ground thanks, in large part, to the love and effort he consistently put into developing our student-athletes.”
Chancellor Philip Dubois echoed that thanks.
“We could not have found a better man than Brad Lambert to start our program and we appreciate all of Brad’s years of service in building a program with character and integrity,” UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois said.
Lambert expressed gratitude at being given the opportunity to build the 49ers program.
“I would like to thank Chancellor Dubois and Judy [Rose] for the opportunity they gave me to start this program,” said Lambert. “I would also like to thank our staff and student-athletes who poured themselves into this program for us. I could not be prouder of all the young men and all that they have accomplished on and off the field.”
The school said that Lambert will be kept on to coach the season finale Saturday against Florida Atlantic.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said former Athletic Director Judy Rose had attempted to let Lambert go last year, but decided not to after backlash. In fact, the criticism came after Rose’s decision to fire Mark Price, the 49ers men’s basketball coach, while keeping Lambert after a 1-11 season. Also, an earlier version of this story reported UNCC had a 4-8 record this season.