No Reason to Assume Anything Untoward
Yesterday's curt announcement by The University that Eric and Aaron Price, sons of former head coach Mike Price, had been "reassigned to duties within the athletics department" naturally set fans wondering. Given that Mike Price had just filed notice that he intended to appeal his dismissal, some speculated that the move was in retaliation for the father's action. Or possibly Alabama officials were worried about what might be said to impressionable recruits.
However, a less worrisome explanation exists.
The NCAA only allows a set number of coaches to recruit on the road at any given time, and those names must come from a list of coaches submitted to the NCAA by the school. For example, when Dennis Franchione bolted for Texas A&M, taking almost his entire staff with him, Athletics Director Mal Moore had to contact the NCAA and submit Randy Ross' name to allow recruiting calls to continue.
Interestingly, for a few weeks several Franchione-connected coaches who ended up joining the Texas A&M staff remained in Tuscaloosa still employed by Alabama. But Coach Moore did not allow those men to take an active role in recruiting, asking Ross to handle those duties instead.
Two things are probably going on. First, with today's announcement that Randy Ross was on the road recruiting, clearly Bama's list of road recruiters has changed. And second, it's likely (and logical) that Head Coach Mike Shula and Coach Moore would prefer not to send coaches on the road recruiting whose status on the new staff remains in doubt.
NOTE: Normally assistant coaches serve at the discretion of the head coach. Standard contracts for assistants contain a clause specifying that should the head coach leave, The University would then be obligated for only six months. However, both Eric and Aaron Price are believed to have separate contracts of at least a year in length--believed to be two years in Eric Price's case.
Who'll stay and who'll go?
Everything is speculation at this point, but the odds are very good that Joe Kines will remain as defensive coordinator. He and Mike Shula have long-standing ties, dating back to Shula's playing days at Alabama and then their tenure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In fact, Kines would probably be a good bet to possibly add the title of Assistant Head Coach.
On defense--assuming Kines stays on--Shula will likely rely heavily on the veteran coach's advice. If Kines gives his strong endorsement to Paul Randolph (defensive ends), Buddy Wyatt (defensive tackles) and Chris Ball (secondary), then Shula would be inclined to follow the advice. Certainly there's no reason for Randolph or Wyatt to be questioned, since the two came to Alabama from West Virginia and Texas A&M respectively. Ball came from Washington State with Mike Price and is a good friend of Aaron Price.
On offense, essentially all bets are off, with Mike Shula himself being the wild card. Will he choose to be his own offensive coordinator? Will he bring NFL friends with him to Alabama? Will he coach the Tide quarterbacks?
Given that they have already been reassigned to administrative jobs, Eric (former offensive coordinator and receivers) and Aaron Price (formerly quarterbacks and kickers) are not likely to be on-the-field coaches for Alabama next season.
Kasey Dunn (running backs) may end up with the same result. Considered to be a very talented young coach, Dunn was in Pensacola and also in the infamous stripper bar with Mike Price, and that fact alone makes his inclusion on next year's staff problematic.
The fates of Sparky Woods (tight ends) and Bobby Connelly (offensive line) are less certain. All things being equal, Woods is a strong candidate to remain, especially considering his extensive experience coaching in the Southeastern Conference. A young head coach like Shula can't help but appreciate the worth of an assistant like Woods.
Also a former Washington State coach, Connelly's future at Alabama will probably hinge on his interview with Shula and Shula's contacts in the NFL. If Bama's new head coach has a friend that wants to join the staff with an O-Line background, then expect a move. Otherwise, Connelly could stay.
How Long? Hopefully Not Long.
That's the question from both fans and writers, concerning the completion of Shula's 2003 staff. Alabama's new head coach has been hard at work since Sunday, interviewing current and potential assistant coaches both in person and on the phone.
Shula plans to fly back to Miami midweek (probably Wednesday evening) to deal with family issues related to his move. Ideally he would like to reveal his decisions by then, but it's certainly possible they could take longer.
The only thing (semi-) certain is that individual names won't be released piecemeal. With current staff members' jobs connected to the decisions, expect all the names to be released at once.
NOTE: With a three-year-old daughter and another baby on the way, Shari Shula isn't likely to earn any frequent-flyer miles winging back and forth between Miami and Tuscaloosa. Expect Mike Shula to spend a few days in Miami the latter part of this week, attending to family business, before staying permanently to Tuscaloosa. On the other hand, Shari Shula will likely remain in Miami until the couple's new home in T-Town is ready.