It’s amazing how far Alabama football has fallen in recent years. They last won a national championship in 1992 under Gene Stallings. Since then, it has been one embarrassing episode after another. NCAA sanctions for playing an ineligible player. Having to pay off a secretary after a sex scandal with a head coach, Mike DuBose, who was then allowed to stay on, only to bring more disrepute to the program with yet another bout of NCAA santions. His eventual replacement, Dennis Franchione, voluntarily left for Texas A&M after only two years.
Now, his replacement, Mike Price gets caught in a squalid scandal involving strippers, a strange woman, a large room service tab, and likely some things that have yet to be made public and was fired today, not having coached a single game. Topping it off, Price cries like a baby during the press conference and whines about how unfair it all is–for like 15 minutes.
Paul Finebaum, a major sports personality in the state, says Alabama had little choice. ESPN’s Ivan Maisel believes Price didn’t deserve to lose his job, a sentiment shared by Price’s players, who spouted claptrap about having “gone to war” with their coach. (I guess war and football practice in hot Alabama weather probably seem pretty similar to teenagers.)
I tend to agree with Finebaum on this one. While Price didn’t commit any crimes, his conduct is an embarrasment for a university employee, let alone one in a position of authority and visibility. While the players rallied around him, I don’t know how they could ever respect him as a disciplinarian.
This is the worst possible time to try to hire a replacement, with spring practice over and the top candidates locked into jobs. Many of the current staff are Price’s sons–a move that was an early signal to me that something wasn’t right–so they’re unlikely candidates. Maisel offers up an interesting suggestion in his piece:
Sylvester Croom, a Packers assistant and an All-American center for Bear Bryant in the mid-1970s. Croom’s name is on the “Commitment to Excellence” award that Crimson Tide coaches hand out every spring.
More important, Croom would be the first African-American head coach in the Southeastern Conference. At a time when Alabama needs to be seen as groundbreaking instead of record-breaking — surely, four head coaches in three years is some sort of record — Witt and Moore should take a hard look at Croom.
Hiring a black coach would help Alabama rehabilitate itself. It would prove that the university is thinking forward. If Witt wants to move on, hiring a Croom would move Alabama to the front page for doing something progressive.
While I don’t like the idea of hiring a black coach simply to exploit his race, this would be a good move for all the reasons Maisel mentions. Further, Croom was a candidate for some other jobs in the offseason, so it’s not as if his hiring would be pure tokenism. And the school desperately needs some stability at the head coaching position; hiring an alumnus with Bear Bryant connections may be the way to go this time around.
Update (1026 5-4-03): While no favorite candidate has emerged, it does appear the school hopes to hire a full-time coach rather than an interim one.