Moore Discusses Search

University of Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore has to hope that the third time will be the charm. Moore has begun the task of finding a new head football coach for the Crimson Tide to replace Mike Price, who was fired Saturday. Moore acknowledges that this is an "awkward" time to be searching for a new coach. In an early morning press briefing Monday, Moore did not put limitations on the criteria or on his timetable. He said he wanted the "best fit" and he wants it "as quickly as possible."

Moore has been given complete authority by Alabama President Robert Witt to select a new head coach. Dr. Witt is taking some part in the proceedings. Witt and Moore went together to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Sunday, and were thought to be returning together to Florida this morning. Moore indicated he had four interviews planned, but also said that number could change. He also pointed out "You can interview more than one candidate on a trip." He said he hoped to complete the interview process "in the next two or three days."

Moore would not discuss any specific individuals as possible candidates. He reiterated that he hopes to hire a permanent head coach quickly. He also said his first plan is to go outside the current staff. Although he said he would not leave out the possibility of having to fill the vacancy with an interim head coach, he seemed sure that was an unlikely possibility.

Moore also said that Price's two sons who were members of the Alabama football coaching staff had told Moore they will be leaving. He said both Offensive Coordinator Eric Price and Quarterbacks-Kickers Coach Aaron Price were very complimentary of The University and the Alabama football program, but did not intend to seek employment under the next head coach.

All other Bama assistant coaches remain on the job, many of them back on the road during this football recruiting evaluation period. The coaches had been called back from those duties Friday night because of the Price situation. Today is the first day of final examinations and Moore said there would be a players' meeting. Moore said he had asked Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines to handle the meeting, but "not as interim head coach."

Moore said, "I want to make this happen as quickly as possible because the players deserve that." He said moving quickly would be best for all involved in The University and its fans. Moore admitted that he was not aware of any other college having to find a new head coach between spring practice and the start of the season. Alabama is expected to begin pre-season work about August 1 and will open the season August 31 hosting South Florida in Birmingham.

Moore said that to his knowledge no Alabama players had expressed an interest in transferring. The Tuscaloosa News said that Moore has said he will not grant releases to any Alabama signees, meaning those who signed with Alabama in February will not be able to renege on their Alabama scholarships to go to another school without having to sit out a year.

The Bama athletics director said he is "working now to find someone in the next few days to lead this program." He said the next Alabama coach would have a "love for this program" and "toughness." A coach with "love of the program" might be one who has been a player or coach for the Crimson Tide.

The list of potential candidates being discussed in the media and public includes a number of those, including former Bama head coaches Ray Perkins (who left Alabama to return to the NFL) and Gene Stallings (who retired after the 1996 season); Richard Williamson and Sylvester Croom, both of whom were Alabama players and assistant coaches and who are now NFL assistants; Mike Shula, who went from Tide quarterback to NFL assistant (and who many believe was interviewed by Moore and Witt on Sunday in Fort Lauderdale). It is also possible that Moore would talk to South Florida Head Coach Jim Leavitt, who was an impressive candidate when Moore picked Price last December. Another rumored candidate, Tom Coughlin, former Boston College and Jacksonville Jaguars head coach, told a television station he had not been contacted by Alabama. An early name mentioned by some, former Georgia Coach Jim Donnan, is now believed to be a remote possibility.

Moore said the new coach might come from college – including a current college head coach – or from the NFL. He said he had "not yet" asked any athletics director for permission to speak with a college head coach. He also said that he had received word that certain coaches are interested in being considered. Moore pointed out that just as it is an awkward time for Alabama to be seeking a head coach, it is an awkward time for coaches to be seeking new employment.

Moore also did say that it was preferable that the position be filled by one who is a head coach or who has had head coaching experience but that would not be a requirement. He said he would not comment on whether the coach should have a background in offense as opposed to defense, or vice versa. And he said that while he would consider the current player personnel in trying to find a coach who might continue an offense or defense similar to what fits, that would not be the primary factor.

"I'm looking for someone who I think is a fit for this program," Moore said.

Moore said that as he has in the past he would clear any candidate with the NCAA and that he would talk to many familiar with each candidate before making a decision. He said that Price was "recommended very, very strongly by a lot of people." Moore said Alabama had never employed a private investigator for background checks. He said after the NCAA clearance, he would speak to the employer (for instance athletics director) of the candidate, former employers, men who had been players for the candidate, and coaches who had worked for or with the candidate.

Moore said he wanted to hire a coach for the long term, not just for a year to get through the current problems. And he noted that the next coach will face some "tough times" because of NCAA sanctions. He said he wanted a coach who could "recruit us through" the difficult times, then restore Bama football to national prominence.

Alabama was 10-3 last year. And although Bama was not eligible for a bowl game (and will not be eligible again this year), the Crimson Tide finished ranked 11th in the nation.

Moore pointed out that the next coach would enjoy the advantages of Alabama's massive capital campaign to improve and expand athletics facilities. Alabama is in the midst of a campaign to provide some $100 million in improvements and expansion, including substantial changes in both the football building and Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Moore has met with Alabama's current players. He told them their first priority is to be diligent in their classwork. Final examinations for the spring semester started at The University this morning. He also told the players he would support Bama's current coaches to continue with the Crimson Tide, but pointed out a head coach must be able to choose his own staff. Moore said he was also keeping the current staff abreast of progress.

Moore also noted that President Witt had met with the players "on a couple of occasions."

Moore said he had talked to Price Sunday and said Price was "understandably down." He added that Price had been absolutely truthful and forthcoming "with me, President Witt, and his family."

Price had agreed to a seven-year contract for $10 million. However, he never signed the contract. Although Moore did not go into specifics, he said Price was satisfied with the contract offered by The University's legal staff, Price's attorney had not agreed with one part of the offer. Moore declined to specify that problem area. Alabama's legal staff had been unable to sign previous Tide Coach Dennis Franchione to a 10-year contract that Moore and Franchione had agreed to because The University insisted on an unusual (perhaps unique) non-compete clause if Franchione left.

Moore said all issues regarding severance would be handled by Price's attorneys and The University's attorneys.

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