Price may be interested in UA for many reasons

Not being psychic, I don't know what those on the committee in charge of finding candidates for the vacant UA football job are thinking. Not being a seer or gypsy, I don't know what really happened in Mike Price's hotel room in Pensacola, Fla. after a night of drinking and a stop at a local strip club. I do know that Price has a major lawsuit pending from his dismissal at Alabama. I also know he wants the Arizona job. I also know that these two events could be more linked than they first appear.

Mike Price wants the Arizona job. The embattled coach has told several media sources that he has formally applied for the job. In the past few days he has been very vocal in his desire to be the replacement for John Mackovic.

"It would be a wonderful opportunity," Price told the Arizona Republic. "It's a place I'd love to be."

In many ways the hire would make sense. Price was a successful coach in the Pac-10. He twice led Washington State to Rose Bowl seasons before taking the Alabama coaching job last December. He won his fair share of games in Pullman, Wash., which may be the toughest place to recruit in the Conference.

Price was hired at Washington State by current Arizona Athletic Director Jim Livengood and the two still remain friends. It seems that Price would at least warrant serious consideration, but that may not be the case. Arizona President Peter Likins has gone on record as saying that Price would not be considered for the job due to the controversy that got him dismissed from Alabama.

Knowing Likins' statements, Price has gone on the attack to clear his name.

"That never happened," Price told the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash. "I never committed adultery."

Price was accused in a Sports Illustrated story of getting drunk one night while in Pensacola for a golf tournament and committing adultery. The SI report says that towards the end of the night Price wound up at a strip club and went back to his hotel and had sex with two women.

After the story ran, Price was fired from his new job at Alabama. What made matters worse is that Price had not signed his contract and essentially coached during spring ball for free.

Price maintained his innocence throughout and eventually sued the University and the magazine over the termination. He sued each for $20 million dollars apiece. The suit against the school was dismissed, but his suit against the publication remains and it is that legal dispute that could tie into the Arizona coaching search.

Price's suit against Sports Illustrated claims that the story has so soiled his reputation that he has found employment difficult.

"That story destroyed my reputation," Price said. "Hurt my family. Hurt me. And it was nothing but lies. There were never [two] women in my room. There was never a sexual encounter. There was no adultery."

While Price may indeed desire the Arizona coaching job, not landing the gig could aid the lawsuit. That could be part of his motivation in making sure the general public knows that he is pursuing the job. If Price does not get the job, and it still looks like he is a longshot at best, then he has the perfect ammunition in his legal pursuits. What better way to prove that your reputation has been soiled, than to not get hired by one of your best friends? All Price has to do is say that no matter how qualified he might be, he could not get a job with a friend because the school president didn't want someone with his baggage.

It can be hard to prove that a story damaged one's reputation. The National Inquirer survives lawsuits of this nature all the time because proving a reputation has been damaged can be tough. By losing out on the Arizona job, especially when coupled with Likins' comments, Price may just have all the proof he needs.

Cat Tracks editor John Schuster contributed to this story.

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