Sunday, May 4, 2003

Alabama players upset by coach's firing



By TOM ENSEY
Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Alabama football players stepped up to the microphone prior to Saturday's Board of Trustees meeting to offer their support for Coach Mike Price.

Offensive tackle Wesley Britt, quarterback Brodie Croyle and running back Shaud Williams all spoke in an open forum prior to the meeting.

Croyle asked the board and president "to show mercy.

"I have talked to (Price) on numerous occasions, he realizes he made a mistake and it won't happen again," Croyle said. "It would be devastating to this team to go through another coach. I don't know if we can do it."

A few hours later, president Robert E. Witt announced that is exactly what the team will have to do.

"(The team) will once again have to endure a period of uncertainty," he said.

After Witt's announcement, and after Price had given an emotional farewell, the players expressed disappointment. There were many in attendance at the beginning of the meeting, which quickly went into closed session as Price's character and good name was discussed. Many stayed around for the ensuing news conference.

Wide receiver Triandos Luke was clearly upset.

"We hoped we would have some play in what happened," he said. "I guess we didn't."

Britt said he visited with Witt on two occasions last week. The first time came on Thursday with a small group of team leaders that included Luke, Croyle, Williams and Antonio Carter. He and his parents sat down with Witt again on Friday.

Britt said in the first meeting the players expressed support for the coach. He said his parents went as representatives of Christian families.

"(Witt) said he was concerned about how Christian parents would view coach Price's actions," Britt said. They, too, expressed support for Price.

Britt said he hoped the fact that Witt has only been the university's president for two months did not cause him to make a harsh decision.

"I pray to God he didn't make this decision to do something for his image," Britt said. "I know a lot of people put a lot of pressure on him to show that he's in control and not the head football coach."

Athletic director Mal Moore met with the team on Saturday. Croyle said Moore told the players he would move as quickly as possible to get a new coach on board.

Croyle said that with finals coming up, workouts would be voluntary, but probably most players would continue to go. He also expressed concern that right now, there's nobody in charge.

"If they call us up and tell us there's a team meeting, we'll come to it," he said. "Right now, we don't have one (scheduled)."

Croyle said many of the players are upset.

"We felt anything we said was not heard," he said. "But that's life. It just seems we've had a steady run of bad things happen to us."

He said the team was closer because of the turmoil.

"We've got to be one of the closest-knit teams in the nation," he said. "The juniors will be on their fourth head coach in four years. We've all seen a lot. We've been through a lot."

Croyle said he didn't know if any of his teammates were considering transferring. It would be a decision each individual would have to make for himself, he said.

"If that's something they chose to do, I guess they have their reasons," he said.

Defensive back Charlie Peprah had a similar observation.

A reporter asked him if it had been a weird week.

"It's been a weird three years," he said.




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