Echoing the theme that Mike Price himself would use later, Croyle lamented the fact that there would be no second chances for his head coach. "He made a mistake; I'm sure every one of you in this room has made a mistake," Croyle said, looking out at the assembled media and fans. "I've made plenty of mistakes in my life. But the best thing about it is all of us have been given a second chance. It's a shame that (Coach Price) didn't get one."
Other team members were also let down. Junior Evan Mathis has endured tough times with his teammates, and like most of them he hoped for a different outcome. "I was disappointed for Coach Price and for everybody on the football team," Mathis said. "You feel for everybody."
"I was shocked," Chris James said, recalling his first reaction to the news. "I was really shocked. I didn't think he was going to get fired. I don't think we even allowed ourselves to think about that. We thought he'd be fine and it would all blow over."
"We had no idea," senior Triandos Luke added.
Fifth-year senior Lance Taylor began his career as a redshirt on the 1999 SEC championship team. Now, four years later he'll be playing for his fourth collegiate head coach.
"My reaction was one of shock and disbelief," Taylor recalled. "We all had to face the reality that it might happen. I kept telling myself that (Coach Price) was going to get fired, because I wanted to set myself up for the worst and hope for the best. But even when I heard (the news) I couldn't believe it. Deep in my heart I thought he was going to stay."
Sophomore Greg McLain signed in 2002 with the Franchione staff, but he had adjusted quickly to the Price offense. "Like all the rest of the guys, I wasn't expecting that," McLain said. "Everybody deserves a second chance. We feel like the president should have given him a second chance."
Thursday Coach Price met with his team, looking them in the eye and asking for their forgiveness. In the days leading up to Saturday's decision, Price had sought permission from The University president to speak directly to the Board of Trustee members. But it was not to be.
As president Witt met with the Athletics Committee of the board, Price and his family sat in chairs outside the room in the hallway, waiting for a chance that never came.
"It seemed like Coach Price wasn't able to give his side to the board," Taylor pointed out. "He wasn't allowed to make a statement to the media (earlier in the week) and explain what had gone on. I have to question why the president was keeping (people) out of the meeting. Maybe he felt like if they came in they would have too much power in the meeting room. I don't know what the reason was for that."
Tight end Clint Johnston described that Thursday meeting between coach and players.
"I sat across from Coach Price as he was so emotional," Johnston related. "It was a powerful meeting. I have never seen somebody that seemed truly that sorry. I was behind him because he was our football coach, but I was behind him even more when I saw how sorry he was for the mistake that he made. He wanted to fix this problem. I believe that had he been allowed to speak earlier in the week, more people would have seen what we as players knew.
"He got a standing ovation as he walked off that podium (Saturday afternoon). Everybody saw that here is a man that made a mistake. We're all human. He wanted a second chance to make it better. I hate it for him and his family and for everybody on the staff."
"I really didn't think they were going to fire him over that," Todd Bates added.
Wesley Britt was asked directly who he blamed, but his reply was circumspect. "I don't want to put the blame on anyone," Britt said. "It's just like a bad dream. Coach Price made a bad decision, and people were unwilling to forgive. I've forgiven him, and as a team we feel like he has great integrity."
Price's tenure at The Capstone was startlingly brief. Barely five months had passed since his hiring, but clearly the athletes admired Price both as a man and a coach. "We speak on behalf of the team to say that we feel like this is a big mistake," Croyle said. "I just hope and pray that we don't have to play a Mike Price team, because he had us further along in four months than any other coach that we've had."
Like Croyle, quarterback Spencer Pennington believed in Price as a head coach. "He's made football the most fun it's been since I've been here," Pennington said. "Everybody else felt the same way. We believed in his system. We were real excited about the offense he was bringing in.
"It's discouraging to know that this has happened twice in a matter of months. You wonder if it can happen again."
Ordered to keep quiet in public by administration decree, Price had been able to lay out the embarrassing matter to his team. And to a man, the players didn't think he deserved to be fired.
"Disbelief," Charlie Peprah said when asked his reaction to the news. "I really did not think that was going to happen. I thought he would be suspended or reprimanded, but not get fired. I want to ask ‘Did they forget about the players? Did they forget about us?'"
"Coach Price wanted to be here badly," Peprah continued. "You work your whole life to get to a place like this, and he didn't even get to coach one game. It was just out of the blue.
"Just like that he was gone."
Johnston agreed, "We had gotten close, and all of a sudden he's gone. I've experienced forgiveness in my life. That's why when I saw him so emotional and so sorrowful for what he did, I told him ‘Coach, no matter what happens I'll stand behind you. And so will the team.'
"And we did."
Though only a third-year sophomore, Croyle emerged this past week as a team spokesman. "It's disappointing," he said. "This will be our third football coach in five or six months. When you sign to play football at The University of Alabama, you expect stability, and you expect to win a lot of football games."
Thinking of his father and the countless other former Tide players that have built the Alabama football legacy, Croyle concluded. "It's a shame for the people that made Alabama what it is today. The dynasty they built is still here, but we're not making the most of it."