Former Players React to Firing

The dismissal of Alabama Head Football Coach Mike Shula came after eight painstaking days of deliberation (some would say delay), but still dropped with a heavy thud Sunday night when reports of Shula's firing hit the World Wide Web, especially some former players following the program from a distance.

Shula's name was dropped from the official University athletics web site Monday morning, and was deactivated and re-routed back to the official athletics site.

Paul Hogan, who played center at Alabama from 1997-2000 and is now an assistant coach at Clemson, told the news came as a surprise to him even after the long delay.

"I was very surprised. I don't know what else to say," Hogan said. "I think (Shula) came in under very difficult circumstances, taking that job under probation and trying to recruit. It's hard to catch up on recruiting when you've taken it that late. They won 10 games last year, and a lot of those games this year could have gone either way this year."

Former Alabama star running back Bobby Humphrey, who attended Monday's press conference, was disappointed to see his friend fired, but also said he understood the move from a football standpoint.

"If you base it on last year's season and this year's season and finishing 6-6 then you would have to say yes (you understand the decision)," Humphrey said. "If you wait another year and you still have in the back of your mind that you're going to fire the guy at the end of that season it might not do any good to wait a year. That was probably one of the things that weighed into it with the decision makers."

Roman Harper, who played for Shula from 2003-2005, also said the news came as a shock. He didn't want to express an opinion on whether firing Shula was a good or bad decision, but did express support for his former coaches.

"I never want my coaching staff to leave," he said. "You've got to feel bad for the whole team. I've been through coaching changes and they're definitely not fun."

Harper was a player during the transition from Dennis Franchione to Mike Price, and then from Price to Shula following Price's mid-summer firing.

"I didn't know how Alabama was going to handle it (with Shula)," he said. " I hope we get a good coach to replace him. Hopefully he'll lead this team back in the direction we need to go. Hopefully the interim period won't be too long."

Harper also expressed confidence in his old defensive coordinator Joe Kines, who will be leading the team on an interim basis.

"He's going to be on them about going to class," Harper said. "He's going to be hammering on that stuff. There won't be any slipping around. I'm hoping they'll get into a good bowl game and perform well and I'm pretty sure."

Todd Bates, who played from 2001-2004 and was a captain on Shula's squad his senior year, got the news from an e-mail going around among former players.

"I knew we had a mediocre season this year and we didn't beat any of our rivals," he said, "at the same time, the players have to execute the plays that were called and we didn't execute.

"I feel like maybe he should have got a little more time, but I'm not in the position to hire or fire him. I thought he would get at least one more year. Last year we had a good season and it was looking up for us. Then we go right back downhill. I can see where he would lose his job, but I thought he would get another year."

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