Saturday, May 3, 2003

Alabama's Price awaits decision on job status

By John Zenor
The Associated Press

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Mike Price came to town hoping to became Alabama's second-best coach, behind only Bear Bryant. He might leave without coaching a game.

On Saturday, university president Robert Witt was to present trustees with his findings on Price's behavior on a trip to Pensacola, Fla., last month for a pro-am golf tournament.

According to news reports, Price paid for several private dances at a topless bar and, the next morning, a woman at the hotel where Price was staying ordered about $1,000 in items from the room service menu and charged it to Price's room bill.

A close friend of Price, Mack Bledsoe, said the coach told him he didn't know how the woman wound up in his room.

"He said he wound up with a lady in his room the next morning and he had no recollection of it," Bledsoe told Birmingham-based radio talk show host Paul Finebaum on Friday. "He was fully clothed. She was fully clothed. He was wearing the clothes he wore the night before."

Bledsoe's son, Drew, was a star quarterback under Price at Washington State and plays for the Buffalo Bills.

The school's investigation also could be expanded to include accusations that Price bought drinks for students, The Tuscaloosa News reported Friday.

The 57-year-old Price has declined to comment about the details of the reports. Six team leaders met with the coach in his office Thursday and expressed support for him.

"We had more fun playing football this spring than I have since I've been here," quarterback Brodie Croyle said. "Everybody on this team feels the exact same way we do. We all want him here.

Price agreed to a seven-year contract worth $10 million after leaving Washington State, 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.

If he decides to fire Price, there would be little time for a new coach to put in a new system and assemble a staff. Price has two sons on the Alabama staff: offensive coordinator Eric Price and quarterbacks and kickers coach Aaron Price.

He 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).

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