Monday, May 5, 2003

Forrest Gump to Mike Price: Stupid is as stupid does

Gannett News Service

Mike Price had to go. I guess. Such is the landfill Alabama football is in today, that it can no longer offer championship contenders, but only multiple choice questions in ethics.

Your new football coach was just caught crimson-handed spending the shoulder pad money at a strip club. (Suggested headline: Brainless coach found in topless bar.)

The best response would be:

A. Clarify what his idea of a recruiting trip is.

B. Give him a second chance, but only if he promises never to lose to Auburn.

C. Lock his office, call him a cab for the airport, and hope that somewhere, Bear Bryant is not watching this mess.

As you probably know, the president of Alabama chose "C" over the weekend, sending Price's $10 million contract through the shredder.

It's a tragedy. Think how many lap dances that would buy.

One could reasonably make the case this might be unnecessary roughness. Doing astoundingly dumb deeds is not normally a capital crime. The White House has had several of them.

The Crimson Tide players, weary of changing playbooks, pleaded a case that went unheard. The seniors will soon see their fourth coach since 2000.

"Whatever happened," Price said Saturday as he was shoved out the door, "to second chances in life?"

(Answer: In Alabama, they go to guys who have been to enough Sugar Bowls.)

And try to remember this stand on moral outrage the next college football game you see where the dance squad jiggles across the field during a television timeout, in outfits the size of a golf towel.

No, this was not a slamdunk decision. You could make an argument for clemency for Price. Long enough, anyway, to see if he could beat Tennessee.

But yet, stupid is as stupid does, in the words of Forrest Gump, like Price another fictional member of the Alabama football program.

Coaches in the holy lands of college football are paid for their fame. If it's peace and quiet and privacy they want, coach at Washington State.

Price had to understand that in his newly chosen fishbowl, topless dancers would be hard to miss.

He also had to know one of the recent episodes in the soap opera of Alabama football was former coach Mike DuBose's affair with a secretary that led to a sexual harassment suit.

It was neither the time, nor the place, for a new man in town to tempt propriety. Alabama is a program trying to wipe away the dirt of probation and disrepute.

The university president could not get away with this. And in many Alabama minds, he's an elevator ride down the food chain from the football office.

So it was a necessary drop of the axe. Too bad. Price always seemed a decent sort.

These have not been the most pleasant sound bytes for a 57-year-old father of two, the latest party-guy casualty in what has turned into college coaching's spring break.

As for Alabama, the football program looks like an unmade bed, known not for its power anymore, but its unsavory headlines.

Whoever is hired next will be the seventh head coach since Bryant retired in 1982. Some cut and ran, and some ran before they were cut.

The newest poor sod better be good, as a program teeters on the edge of irrelevance. He will inherit a landscape of probation, scholarship cuts, hurt feelings, confusion, chaos.

And a lot of constituents, still expecting the next Houndstooth hat to walk out of the tunnel, will still turn on him if he doesn't go 10-2.

Failure has become nothing new at Alabama. Mike Price is notable only for doing it without playing a game.

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