Archive for Monday, December 22, 2003

Price is right to coach UTEP

Former Washington State, Alabama headman hired

December 22, 2003

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— Mike Price has been waiting seven months to try to rebuild his coaching career. Texas-El Paso is happy to give him a chance.

The Miners hired Price Sunday despite a reputation tarnished by a night of partying at a strip club months after being hired at Alabama. The longtime Washington State coach never coached a game for the Crimson Tide and has been trying to clear his image ever since.

"I feel reborn," Price said. "When something you love has been taken away it really hurts. It hurt me so much that now I know that coaching was my true calling."

Price, who maintains that the events that led to his departure were reported inaccurately, vows to be on his best behavior.

"A lot has happened to me since last April," Price said. "I will continue to try to clear my name, but I can assure that such a mistake will never again happen to Mike Price."

UTEP athletic director Bob Stull cited a relationship with Price that dates more than 20 years as part of his reason for giving him this opportunity. His coaching credentials made him a strong candidate to lead a team that long has been an also-ran in the Western Athletic Conference. The Miners have gone 14-34 the last four seasons under Gary Nord, who was fired Dec. 1.

Price turned Washington State into a Pac-10 title contender in his 14 seasons in Pullman, going 83-77 and leading the Cougars to five bowl games. Among his proteges were quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf.

"We know Mike Price is a man who has been humbled by a highly public mistake," school president Diana Natalicio said. "He paid dearly for that grievous error in judgment, and all of us believe he has earned the opportunity to restart his career."

The hiring is similar to what Texas Tech did three years ago when it gave the volatile Bob Knight a chance to start over.

George O'Leary was hired Dec. 8 to coach Central Florida, giving him another chance in college football two years after Notre Dame forced him to resign because he lied on his resume.

"I've always viewed him as not only a tremendous coach, but a great person and an outstanding representative of college football," Stull said of Price. "He has done a remarkable job of turning around programs and buil

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