By Ivan Maisel

The University of Florida has fired coach Ron Zook and his staff, effective at the end of the season, an assistant coach on the staff confirmed Monday.

An announcement is expected Monday afternoon.

Ron Zook and the Gators fell to 4-3 on Saturday.

The staff received the news in a meeting Monday, two days after a shocking 38-31 loss at Mississippi State that dropped Florida to 4-3, 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference, and five days before the Gators play archrival No. 7 Georgia.

Florida has beaten Georgia in 13 of the last 14 years, and it looked as if the Bulldogs showed up on the schedule at just the right time for Zook.

However, the loss to the Mississippi State Bulldogs proved too much to overcome. Mississippi State had been 1-5, including a loss to I-AA Maine. After his first SEC victory, Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said, "This is just the beginning for us." The loss spelled the end for Zook, who termed it "embarrassing" after the game Saturday.

"Any time a fellow coach is fired, that's disappointing," Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom told The Associated Press on Monday. "Ron's a good football coach who has had an excellent career. I hate that he and his coaching staff and their families have to go through that. We know this is part of the business, but it's not a part of the business that any of us enjoy."

Zook is 20-13 since replacing Steve Spurrier after the 2001 season. Florida was his first head coaching job. Athletic director Jeremy Foley hired him only after flying to Norman, Okla., to try to lure Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, a former Florida defensive coordinator. Instead, Foley hired Zook, who had held that position before Stoops and then gone to work as an assistant in the NFL.

The school will buy out Zook's contract at $450,000 for each of the remaining years, the Gainesville Sun reported Monday.

Zook has taken heat because he couldn't replicate the success of Spurrier, the coach who made Florida into the dominant SEC team of the 1990s. Moreover, the Gators lost four games in which they were favored to win by at least a touchdown. All three losses this season -- Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State -- occurred in the final minute.

"We haven't helped ourselves, obviously, last weekend," the assistant said Monday. "This staff is all professionals and great coaches. It isn't possible to work harder than we've been working. We're planning for Georgia. We're going to beat Georgia. We got a lot of work to do this week."

Zook also lost support within the university in recent weeks because of an incident involving a campus fraternity. Members of the football team got into a fight with members of a university fraternity. Foley asked Zook to go to the house and serve as a peacemaker. Instead, Zook lost his temper and became argumentative with the students.

As for who will replace Zook, attention will focus on Urban Meyer, coach of No. 10 Utah. The president of the University of Florida, Dr. J. Bernard Machen, came to Gainesville from Utah.