Eleven questions for Mike Price

MIKE PRICE marvels at the “wow factor” of the dazzling new football facilities at Washington State, but the former Cougars coach says there’s a good reason why he isn’t jealous.

“We had a ‘wow factor’ when I coached there,” Price deadpanned. “People would go, ‘Wow, how can you win here?’”

Price showed them how by becoming the only man to coach the Cougars in two Rose Bowls. Only the legendary Babe Hollingbery coached or won more games as WSU’s head coach than Price, who compiled an 83-78 record and went to five bowl games during a 14-year run (1989-2002) in Pullman.

Price retired from coaching in 2012 after nine years as head coach at Texas-El Paso. Since then, he’s stayed close to the game by frequently attending WSU and Tulane games. Sons Aaron and Eric, who coached with their father at Washington State and UTEP, are assistant coaches at Tulane. Two other familiar faces at the New Orleans school, athletic director Rick Dickson and offensive line coach John McDonell, held those titles at WSU during part of Price’s time as head coach of the Cougars.

Price and wife Joyce now split time between residences in Coeur d’Alene and El Paso. The Prices were driving to El Paso on Tuesday when Mike – sounding as energetic as ever at 68 – took time to answer 11 questions in the latest edition of 11-on-1, a weekly Cougfan.com exclusive focusing on one individual with ties to WSU football.

1. Cougfan: What are some of your favorite memories about your days at Washington State?

Price: I’ve got so many great memories … the Rose Bowls (1998 and 2003), the “Snow Bowl” against the Huskies (1992) and winning the (1997 Pacific-10 Conference co-) championship in Seattle. That was a thrill.

Seeing all the kids go on to play pro football and graduate and become doctors and lawyers and policemen and still keeping in touch with them. Also, all the coaches that coached for me that are coaching in other places.

Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M’s head coach) was a graduate assistant for me at Washington State, his first job. James Franklin is (head coach) at Penn State. Greg Olson is the offensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders. Mike Zimmer’s head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. (Robb) Akey and Andre Patterson are assistant coaches for him.

2. Cougfan: How much would you have loved having all the recent facility upgrades when you coached the Cougars?

Price: I dreamed of facilities like we have now. I had architects draw me pictures of it. Cardboard buildings. Every year I was telling recruits, “This is going to be happening by the time you graduate.” It never did, so I’m just so happy to see what we’ve done there facilities-wise. It’s been great.

3. Cougfan: What was it like touring the new football operations building for the first time?

Price: I really had tears in my eyes. (Athletic director) Bill Moos did such a wonderful job in using the resources and people. They got exactly what they wanted, from oversized chairs in the meeting rooms to every little detail. He just really did a great job. It’s perfect.

4. Cougfan: How well do you know current head coach Mike Leach?

Price: When Mike was (an assistant coach) at Kentucky, he came and studied football with us, studied our offense when I was at Washington State. We became friends over the (years) … we recruited the same (players). Did (coaching) conventions and clinics and golf tournaments. I know Mike quite well.

5. Cougfan: You were known for coaching an innovative passing game. What do you think of Leach’s pass-happy offense?

Price: We did some of that stuff, too. We didn’t throw quite as much as he does. I think he’s doing what they can do and do it well. They’re tops in the nation (in passing yards). I know Connor (Halliday) and this other kid (Luke Falk) who came in (last Saturday when Halliday was injured) are doing just a fantastic job.

Mike’s going to do what Mike does. He’s not going to change. He’s going to do it until it works. He’s a different guy. He’s a character. He cracks me up sometimes.

6. You attended Saturday’s game. What was your reaction when Halliday went down, ending the senior quarterback’s college career?

Price: Made me sick to my stomach. It’s too bad.

7. Cougfan: UTEP has traditionally been a tough place to win. Why did you take the Miners job?

Price: It was probably one of the worst jobs in America at the time, but I wasn’t getting any looks from anybody. (Price was hired in December 2013, having been fired as Alabama’s head coach earlier that year before coaching a game due to off-field issues.) But Bob Stull (the athletic director) and Dr. Natalicio (school president Diana Natalicio), they stuck their necks out and hired me … it was the perfect place for me.

8. Cougfan: When Saturdays roll around, do you get antsy about not coaching?

Price: Not bad, not bad … I think when your sons do things (in coaching), you want them to do things the way you did when you were coaching. I watch Tulane every game somehow – TV or computer (or in person).

9. What do you miss least about coaching?

Price: I don’t miss the kids (his players) getting in trouble. And social media. I don’t miss looking at the (news)paper and seeing who got in trouble.

10. Cougfan: You still spend winters at your home on the golf course in El Paso. What appeals to you about the city, besides the warm winters?

Price: The people. They’re just great people. They welcomed my family … they’re not snooty. They’re not “high society.” The same type of people that are in Pullman.

11. Cougfan: You really enjoyed living in Pullman, didn’t you?

Price: It was a great place for us. We lived there 21 years (counting his time as a player, graduate assistant coach, running backs coach and head coach). All three of our kids were born there. We’ve got to be some of the “longest Cougars” who have ever been there (in athletics). That town is pretty special. We loved every minute of it.

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