Great Moments with Mr. Price

THE END OF the Mike Price chapter in the ongoing epic we like to call Washington State football wouldn't be complete without sharing some highly memorable interactions that had with the long-time Cougar chief over the years. They run the gamut from funny to fuming to touching.

First the funniest. Two years ago, as a prep senior from Reno, Cougar kicker Graham Siderius and his folks drove 12 hours to Pullman right after Christmas to give the campus one final look before Graham decided whether to cast hit lot with WSU or Wisconsin.

On the second day in town, Graham was sold on the Cougars, so he booted up a laptop and announced right here on CF.C that he would be calling Mike Price within the hour to make his verbal commitment.

That very same day, Coach Price, who had given wife Joyce a computer for Christmas, was logging onto the Internet to show Joyce the joys of surfing. Their first stop? Why CF.C, of course.

And what to Mike's wondering eyes should appear but a front-page story announcing Graham's plans to call Coach Price that afternoon to make his commitment.

No sooner had Mike finished reading the story than the phone rings.

It's Siderius. "Coach," he says, "I'm calling to give you my verbal commitment."

To which Mike responded, "I already know. I just read it on Cougfan."

Mike shared that story with us a few months after the fact when we asked him how the rapid flow of information via the Internet has changed the face of recruiting.

A FEW MONTHS earlier, Mike wasn't smiling our way. In fact, he was fuming. About three weeks before the 2000 season opener against Stanford, an earnest student correspondent we had hired dutifully noted in one of his dispatches that the Cougars were practicing fake field goals. Moreover, he pretty much diagrammed exactly what the Cougars were doing and which players were doing what.

Now that's the type of thing any level-headed editor would quickly delete for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, our senior editors were on vacation that week or otherwise indisposed and had asked a well-meaning acquaintance to serve as copy editor.

Just one problem. Our pinch-hitter was a great wordsmith, but knew virtually nothing about football or the need to keep hush on certain strate-gems.

Alas, the fake field goal play was posted for the world to see.

So you can imagine the surprise when Greg Witter, our executive editor --- traipsing through the wilds of north-central Washington with his 28-pound, 2-year-old son Ryan on his shoulders --- grabs his ringing cell phone and finds a flabbergasted Mike Price on the line.

"You've just cost us seven points against Stanford. And it would have been a for-sure seven based on what we've seen from Stanford game film," the coach said.


We pledged to never let it happen again, and Coach Price never once held it against us going forward.

Still, you can imagine our relief when it turned out that the seven points would have made no difference in the outcome of the game.

IN THE CATEGORY of why-we-liked-the guy so much comes another little vignette from our executive editor, who was making a quick trip to Pullman for the Edward R. Murrow Symposium a couple of years back.

He discovered a two-hour window of free time in his schedule so, with visions of a column or two dancing in his head, made last-minute calls to Mike Price and Paul Graham to see if they'd be kind enough to chat for a few minutes.

Mr. Graham responded that he didn't consider fan sites legitimate news sources, so declined. (Wonder no longer why we don't pay more attention to Cougars hoops.)

Mike --- the guy who'd had his fake field goal disclosed by us just seven months earlier --- said to swing by for 20 minutes whenever it was convenient. The 20 minutes turned into 45, then an hour, and then an invitation to join the entire coaching staff for lunch.

Saint Mike, indeed.

AND LASTLY COME a couple of quick tales that also speak to why the loss of Coach Price hit the Cougar Nation so hard.

  • Spotting a CF.C editor on the sidelines during warm ups before last season's Nevada game at Seahawks Stadium, Mike walked over to say hello. But it wasn't cursory. He spent several minutes chatting. He also shared a notable quotable, telling us this was the first time a bus carrying Cougar football players to a game in Seattle hadn't been pelted with verbal assaults from purple-clad miscreants.

  • Exchanging some good-natured, but devilishly pointed, jokes about Rick Neuheisel this past season that had coach and editor both belly-laughing. In the interests of Mike and Rick, we won't recount the missives here.

  • Almost getting a tear in his eye as he told us about a visibly shaken Lamont Thompson walking into his office to ask about his football future. Why? Because a poster on the CF.C message board, citing well-placed sources, had proclaimed Lamont's neck injury so severe that he'd never play again. It wasn't true, of course. But Lamont came to Coach Price wanting to know why he hadn't been told. "The kid was devastated, and for no good reason," Mike said.

    His point in sharing the story? To emphasize that college ballplayers are just kids -- kids with feelings and worries like other kids, "so please do whatever you can to make sure people on your message board think before they write." Let's all take that one to heart.

  • Dropping everything in the middle of recruiting season a year or two back to attend the funeral of the dad of a former assistant coach.

  • Stopping in mid-sentence at his post-game talk with reporters following the 2001 Crimson & Gray game to say hello, by name, to one of our late-arriving editors and asking how things were going.

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