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Meet Mike Price: The Alabama Football Coach That Never Was
AP Photo/J.R. Hernandez

Sex scandals are not limited to the Kardashians. A quick search through sports history books will show you the Minnesota Vikings love boat scandal in 2005 or the Louisville basketball team’s escort sex scandal in the 2010s. You could also just ask Tiger Woods or Robert Kraft.

Rarely do you see a head coach, of one of the biggest college football programs in the country nonetheless, caught up in one. Unless we’re talking about Mike Price, the disgraced Alabama coach who was fired in 2003 before ever coaching a Crimson Tide game.

Let’s start with the backstory. Alabama hired Price away from Washington State, where he led the Cougars to back-to-back 10-win seasons from 2001-02 and reached two Rose Bowl games during his 14-year tenure in Pullman, Washington. He finished in the Associated Press’s Top 25 in both of his final years. He also developed NFL quarterbacks like Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf there.

In December of 2002, Price was announced as the new football coach of the Crimson Tide. He was replacing Dennis Franchione, whose stay in Tuscaloosa lasted just two years before he accepted the job at Texas A&M thanks in part to NCAA sanctions on Alabama.

Alabama gave Price a seven-year, $10 million deal.

Fast-forward to the middle of April in 2003. Price was in Pensacola, Florida to play in the Emerald Coast Classic Pro-Am golf tournament. The first thing the 57-year-old husband and father of three children — two of which were his sons and assistants at Alabama under him — does is make his way to a strip club, Arety’s Angels.

According to accounts in an in-depth piece from Sports Illustrated, Price bought hundreds of dollars worth of drinks and dances. After leaving to attend a golf tournament-related dinner, he headed back to the club and was seen “kissing and fondling a waitress” there.

Things get even spicier from there, though.

Price reportedly left Arety’s Angels with two women to head back to the Crowne Plaza Hotel where he was staying. One of the women — who wouldn’t say if she was paid for sex — said they partook in a threesome that included some pretty comical pillow talk.

“We started screaming ‘Roll Tide!’ and he was yelling back, ‘It’s rolling, baby, it’s rolling.'”

— One of the women to Sports Illustrated

Price denied all of this.

After playing 18 holes the next morning, Price received news that someone had racked up $1,000 worth of room service in his hotel room. One of the women had ordered everything on the menu “all in to-go boxes.”

Price handled the issue when he got back to the hotel, but news of his wild night was spreading like wildfire back in Alabama.

After previous allegations of Price partying into the early morning at local Tuscaloosa bars and even making advances on university students, which athletic director Mal Moore warned him about, this incident was the last straw for University of Alabama president Robert Witt.

Before Price even got a chance to man the same sidelines Bear Bryant once did at Bryant-Denny Stadium, he was gone in six months.

Interestingly enough, Price defended himself after he was fired and said Witt was “making a mistake.” Witt, however, said in a USA Today article that Price didn’t hold himself to Alabama’s standards for someone in a leadership position and “that responsibility includes conducting your professional and personal life in a manner consistent with university policy.”

So how did this fiasco affect the future of Alabama football?

Mike Shula left his position as Miami Dolphins quarterbacks coach to come coach at Alabama in 2003. In four years, he compiled a 26-23 record.

Nick Saban was announced as Alabama’s next head coach in 2007 after he said he wouldn’t leave the Miami Dolphins head coaching position. Obviously, that hire has exceeded Alabama’s expectations as Saban has brought five national championships to Tuscaloosa.

Price received a second chance when he was hired to coach at the University of Texas-El Paso in 2003, where he reached three bowl games in 10 years before retiring.

It’s not far-fetched to think Coach Mike Price’s actions in 2003 could’ve changed the entire landscape of college and professional football. Maybe he’d still be coaching at Alabama, which means Saban could still be in Miami. What a world.

Read more University of Alabama coverage here.

Patrick has spent parts of the last four years covering University of Florida athletics and spent two seasons with Major League Baseball. He's a baseball junkie who spends his days defending Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins. A recent Gator grad, Patrick currently resides in Gainesville, Florida.
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