"They had the decision made, regardless of what we had to say."
"We were sort of heard, but it didn't matter," Chris James added.
President Witt had a tough job, no doubt.
Tasked with investigating and then deciding what was in the best long-term interests of The University, he received and listened to numerous people the past week, including scores of Alabama players.
Facing his fifth head coach in his five-year college career, tailback Shaud Williams was very emotional when he spoke to the press Saturday. "I understand that president Witt's job is to think about what's best for The University," he said. "The only thing I'd have to say is ‘Has he ever gone to war with someone?' Has he ever sweated, and worked and bled with someone? Does he know what that's like? Does he know what it's like to get attached to someone and have faith in them that you're going to be successful?' Then to have that all taken away over one mistake. That's all I'd ask him."
In a sense Witt was faced with a no-win situation. Certainly no one suggests that the players be allowed to run the program. But on the other hand, taking the time to listen to player input can end up frustrating them--if the final decision goes against their wishes.
Junior Evan Mathis believes the decision to fire Mike Price was made even before the players had their say. "I don't know that they listened to us," he said. "I'm not sure they took into account what we said. I think they had the decision made from the beginning. They let people speak their mind, but I don't think they listened that much."
"We thought that we were going to have more influence than we did," Spencer Pennington agreed. "I think president Witt already had his mind made up. I think he had to call the press conference and let people speak, but I think he did have his mind made up. The meeting was just to let people state their opinion."
Like the rest of his teammates, Todd Bates hoped Price would stay. But he understands that Witt had other issues to consider.
"I think they tried to listen, but the main part of the decision was protecting the image of The University," Bates said. "They wanted to give us what we wanted, but the image was more important."
Fifth-year senior Lance Taylor took an active role last week as a go-between between team and administration. "I was one of those players that was able to sit down with the president this past week," he related. "Even my father (James Taylor, '73-'75), who played here, he called the president this week. I'm sure several other player's parents either called or came by and spoke to the president personally. We expressed our opinions."
Taylor was torn in assessing how much weight the player input was given. "I have to believe that (president Witt) is a man of character and integrity," Taylor said. "I think he honestly listened to us, but I have to wonder how much weight and merit he gave to what we had to say. Every player and ex-player I've talked to wanted him to stay and be given a second chance. I feel (president Witt) was being swayed more heavily by other people than by us."
"I'm sure they listened to us," Donald Clarke added. "But I don't know how much we affected their decision."
Adamant in his support of Coach Price, nonetheless Clint Johnston sympathized with the tough choice that Witt had to make.
Johnston explained, "I told president Witt when I met with him on Thursday that I respected his judgement and authority. I didn't meet with him to tell him what to do. I wanted to give him my opinion. He made the decision that he thought was best."