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Old 05-03-2003, 12:58 PM   #1
BigO
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Price fired as 'Bama coach

I figure I ought to be the one to post it so that some other soul with a mean streak doesn't get to it first.

It's gonna be a long few years for us Tide fans.

Price fired as Alabama football coach
By JOHN ZENOR
The Associated Press
5/3/03

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Mike Price was fired as Alabama's coach Saturday after a review of his conduct on a trip to Florida that included a visit to a topless bar.

University President Robert Witt said he fired Price for failing to conduct his "personal and professional life in a manner consistent with university policies."

Price, who has yet to coach the Crimson Tide in a game, was described by Witt as "a great coach, a good man." But the president said Price failed to live up to responsibilities that come with the job of head coach at Alabama.

Price, 57, who has been at Alabama only four months after leaving Washington State, appeared earlier with his wife, Joyce, and two sons as university trustees held an open session before going into a private meeting with Witt. He did not comment then -- but later tearfully thanked his players and apologized, but added he felt he should not have been fired.

Witt said he regretted the "period of uncertainty" for Alabama players who now must wait to see who their new head coach will be. Their last coach, Dennis Franchione, left for Texas A&M abruptly after the end of the last season.

The president summoned the trustees in the wake of news reports that Price paid for private dances at a topless bar in Pensacola, Fla., and, the next morning, a woman ordered about $1,000 of room service and charged it to Price's hotel bill.

After the president's announcement, Price went before news reports and said, "I apologize to my wife, the team and my coaches."

"I will learn from this," he said.

He said he asked Witt for a second chance but the president declined. "I wanted to make some positive out of a negative," he said.

About 100 people, half fans and half media, gathered in a room at the Bryant Conference Center and heard emotional pleas from players and Price's sons as trustees started their meeting.

Witt, who met privately with the trustees for two hours, gave them his recommendation on whether Price should be punished for his behavior on a trip to Florida last month for a pro-am golf tournament.

Before trustees went behind closed doors, pleas were made to retain Price.

"Everybody makes mistakes," quarterback Brodie Croyle said. "You can rest assured it won't happen again. ... He is sorry for what he did, and please, have mercy."

Prices' sons, Eric and Aaron, assistants on the Alabama coaching staff, spoke on behalf of their father.

"In his 57 years, there's been one moment in his life he didn't act appropriately," Aaron Price said. He added that his father has taught "character and class" throughout his life and deserves "a second chance."

Culpepper Clark, dean of Alabama's college of communication, reminded the board that the university is bigger than one person and that its president has one overriding mission -- "to protect the reputation of the University of Alabama."

Price agreed to a seven-year contract worth $10 million after leaving Washington State in December, but he hasn't signed the deal. It has a clause saying he can be fired for any behavior "that brings (the) employee into public disrepute, contempt, scandal, or ridicule or that reflects unfavorably upon the reputation or the high moral or ethical standards of the University."

Price expressed lofty ambitions upon his hire after leading Washington State to its second Rose Bowl of his 14-year tenure.

"I want to be the second-best coach in the history of Alabama football," he said. "If I could do that, I think that would be wonderful.

"It probably isn't going to be done the way Papa did it, the way Coach Bryant did it. It's going to be the way I do it. To walk on the same sidelines that he walked is a huge honor."

The university hired Witt in late January from Texas-Arlington.

With Price gone, there is little time for a new coach to put in his system and assemble a staff.

After Price was fired, Croyle described it as "a big mistake." He said Price had raised the Tide to a new level during spring practice.

"We support the coach 100 percent," Croyle said.

Price also has two assistants with head coaching experience: Defensive coordinator Joe Kines was head coach at Arkansas in 1992, and tight ends coach Sparky Woods had head coaching stints at South Carolina (1989-1993) and Appalachian State (1983-88).


--------------------------------------------------------

By Tim Gayle
Montgomery Advertiser


TUSCALOOSA -- Football coach Mike Price has told his side of the story and University of Alabama President Robert Witt has weighed the evidence. Will Price be able to keep his job?

Witt will give his decision to the university system's Board of Trustees today at a special meeting at the Paul W. Bryant Conference Center. The trustees' athletic committee will meet with Witt to determine Price's fate in the wake of an embarrassing incident that has grabbed nationwide attention.

Several Alabama assistant coaches were on the road this week evaluating prospects. Price asked them to return home to be with their families, sports information director Larry White said.

Price, 57, has never coached a game for the Crimson Tide and may not get that opportunity after questions concerning his conduct arose in Pensacola, Fla. Price played in a pro-am before the Emerald Coast Classic golf tournament on April 17. Price reportedly spent hundreds of dollars at a topless club the night before and had more than $1,000 charged to his hotel bill by an unidentified woman in his hotel room.

"I'm not going to comment on that until the university takes an official stance," said Price when asked about the incident on a teleconference call on Thursday. That time is expected to come today.

Mac Bledsoe, father of former Washington State player under Price and current Buffalo Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe, said Price told him about his trip to Pensacola. Bledsoe hinted that Price was the victim of a conspiracy.

"Being around my son, I've talked to sports agents and listened to their stories," Bledsoe said. "It would not surprise me in the least if $250,000 changed hands to get that lady to leave that bar and get into his car. If you knew what I knew, you would say it's absolutely implausible Mike Price did this willingly."

Bledsoe blamed the situation on "the competition" and said he was shocked employees at the hotel where Price stayed revealed details concerning his hotel bill and the woman who charged food and drinks to Price's room.

"Who was this woman?" Bledsoe asked. "I told my wife we ought to take our savings and hire a private detective and find out for ourselves. No one else is going to do it. How did she get there? I know how she got there. Mike Price said she came out (of the bar) and jumped in the taxi. By the time he got to the hotel, he was out of it.

"This just smells like somebody's trying to set him up. This is one of the world's great men and he has to answer for 20 minutes of indiscretion."

It is Witt's first major decision since he was hired in late January after eight years as president of the University of Texas-Arlington.

"He won't be wishy-washy, I can assure you of that," said Donna Darovich, UTA public affairs director. "This is a sticky situation. This is not the same thing as an issue about a player because of grades. Bob Witt is a very moral-type person. He'll put up with a lot but when it comes to something of that nature, he has very high standards when it comes to behavior.

"I could see him making a tough decision regardless. If they jump on him, he'll come back with a rationale they'll understand."

The meeting between Witt and the trustees will be a public meeting beginning at 11 a.m., but can be closed at any time to discuss the good name and character of an individual. Behind closed doors, the new president is expected to make his case for either keeping Price or firing the coach after just over four months on the job.

"I don't have an opinion on whether he's made up his mind," said Judge John England of Tuscaloosa, a member of the athletics committee of the Board of Trustees. "The meeting is an opportunity for him to report the results of his findings and get input from the board. That's my sense."

Darovich said she doesn't expect Witt to make a decision without gathering all of the facts.

"One thing we found about him is he's extremely fair but tough," Darovich said. "He will look at all sides. He's not one to make rash decisions and he's certainly not going to do it unilaterally."

Darovich said the irony facing Witt is his previous experience as a president was at a university that didn't field a football team.

"The biggest athletics issue he faced when he was here was when are we going to get football back," she said. "Then he goes to his new school and the first issue he deals with is football."

Athletics director Mal Moore, who has had no comment since the rumors first surfaced last weekend, was not in the office on Friday. Assistant coaches left early in the day, but indicated they were thankful for the support they had received from the public.

Alabama officials can shoulder part of the embarrassment after failing to release a statement on the rumors for four days.

"It's not a good thing for anyone," said Montgomery's Byron Braggs, a former player who now works for the Homeland Security Department in Washington, D.C. "He went to a gentleman's club, he's married and has two (actually three) adult kids. People do that all the time. The focus is because he's the football coach at Alabama, but he's still a human being.

"There's enough going on in the world. He didn't hurt anybody. It goes back to Bill Clinton. If Hillary doesn't have a problem, the rest of you should get on with your lives."
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