Mike Price responds

Muzzled for the past week by order of university administration, now former Alabama head coach Mike Price finally got his chance Saturday afternoon to address the public. <br><br>"Four months ago I think fans thought I came in as a man with dignity and class, and I'm going to go out with dignity and class," Price began.

"Over the past several days I have been saddened by the rumors that have swirled about my conduct. One mistake will not change the integrity and character that I've had for 57 years. I'm going to get through this, and I'm going to be a better person because of it."

Just minutes earlier Alabama president Robert Witt had announced Price's termination from the same podium. Witt's decision was based on what he said were actions "not consistent with university policy concerning the conduct of university officials."

The inappropriate behavior by Price that started the week's destructive whirlwind occurred on a two-day golf outing to Pensacola, Florida where he represented The University of Alabama. According to published reports, Price spent time at a stripper bar, drinking and tipping the dancers. The next morning he woke up to discover a woman in his room. According to Price's friend Mac Bledsoe, Price told him that both he and the woman were fully clothed, and that Price did not know he she got there. After Price left for the golf tournament, the woman proceeded to run up exorbitant charges on his room service bill. The woman, who has not been identified, was prevented from leaving with the room service items and Price later returned to pay the bill.

After checking the facts out thoroughly all week, Witt consulted Saturday morning with the board of trustees and then announced his decision to terminate Price's employment. Price attended the morning meeting, but was not allowed to speak. Athletics Director Mal Moore was also apparently not invited.

Price disagreed sharply with the decision. "I don't think the punishment fits the crime," he said. "I do not think this is best for this program or these players."

Price makes his point.

When word of the now infamous golf outing first got out, Price immediately related to both Witt and Moore the details of what actually happened. At the time he asked for, but was denied, the chance to explain himself and apologize to the Alabama public.

Saturday was the first time he spoke more than a cryptic comment to the Alabama media on the subject. "I've had numerous truthful and honest discussions with the president and our athletics director, Mal Moore," Price said. "I could have made a statement a week ago, but at the request of president Witt I was asked not to say anything. I did my job and didn't say anything.

"Then I didn't get an opportunity to go into the Board of Trustees and give them my side of the story. I don't think that was right."

In a poignant moment, Price turned and looked at his family standing behind him. "I have to apologize from my heart for my errors of judgment," he said. "I want to apologize to my wife, to my family, to the team and the coaches, the athletic depart support staff. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. They've been standing up for me--the players have, the coaches have, the secretaries. I really appreciate you for standing by me.

"I beg for your forgiveness, and I pray to God every day for his forgiveness."

Price then looked directly into the bank of television cameras, addressing Crimson Tide fans.

"To The University and the entire Bama nation, I admit making mistakes and at times inappropriate conduct," Price said. "And I also ask for your forgiveness. I've come to appreciate the honor and the privilege associated with coaching Alabama football--the football program and the history and tradition of this place.

"To realize that I may have affected the program negatively in any way is personally devastating to me."

"I want to make this clear to everyone listening," Price continued. "I pledge to everyone--any place in the country--not just Alabama, that something like this will never happen again to Mike Price. I will learn from this, and I will seek help to improve certain areas of my personal life that need improving."

The incessant rumors and uncertainty of the past week took their toll on Price and his family. Through numerous personal and telephone conversations, he repeatedly asked for a chance to redeem himself. But Witt decided otherwise.

"I've asked president Witt for a second chance, and he declined," was how Price put it. "Whatever happened to a second chance in life? I've been doing this for many years. You don't have to go to very many places to ask my players about second chances in life. President Witt did not give me that opportunity."

Revealing some bitterness directed principally at the man that ended his tenure at Alabama, Price continued to plead his case. "I think president Witt is making a mistake," Price said. "He's not breaking the law, but he's making an error in judgment. Will he be judged for making an error in judgment?"

"I don't know what kind of world it would be, or how many people would be in that world, if when you made one mistake you are done," Price continued. "This university's image is about real people, about changing people's lives. For years and years it has stood behind its people, seeing them through adversity. But not this time."

Coach Price and Brodie Croyle (right) in happier times.

Based on his long career coaching young men, Price had hoped to create a positive lesson from the extreme negative he caused. "We could have overcome this," he said. "The University is about teaching people about life, preparing to send people out into the real world. I felt like this was an opportunity for The University to stand up and stand behind someone they said they believed in. Help him be a better person to overcome this adversity and learn from it.

"I didn't get that opportunity."

Price concluded his remarks with an extremely emotional message to the Alabama players. Struggling to keep his voice under control, Price said, "To my players I wish the best of luck in everything you do. I'll always be there for you. I love every one of you guys. We've only been together four months, and yet you were willing to stand up and sacrifice your career to stand by me.

"I can't tell you how much I appreciate that."

After asking that the media respect his family's right to privacy, Price then declined to take any questions and left with the sound of a warm ovation from the crowd reverberating in his ears.


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