Crimson Tide rolling on to next coach

November 28th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Crimson Tide rolling on to next coach


Associated Press

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Long famed for titles, bowls and Bear Bryant, Alabama is gaining a reputation for something far less complimentary: coaching turnover and turmoil.
"It's what Alabama is known for right now," defensive end Wallace Gilberry said. "One day we're going to find the right fit who's going to come in here and turn the program around."
The Crimson Tide is once again in the market for a head coach, its fourth in six years, after athletic director Mal Moore announced Mike Shula's firing on Monday. Moore said he would look for a "proven winner" and that defensive coordinator Joe Kines would serve as interim coach for the bowl-eligible Tide.
Alabama thought for a time it had the right fit with Shula. While he had no previous head coaching experience, he was a former Crimson Tide quarterback and heir to a famous pro football name. And the Tide rewarded Shula with a lucrative new contract following last year's 10-2 season, clearly believing things were looking up heading into his fourth year.
But a 6-6 season, ending in three straight losses - to SEC weakling Mississippi State along with LSU and Auburn, two Western Division rivals Shula never could beat - signaled the end. Shula was a combined 0-for-8 against LSU and Auburn and is the only Tide coach to lose four straight to Auburn.
Moore and university president Robert Witt decided late Sunday afternoon to fire Shula and start over again.
Moore praised Shula on Monday for providing "stability for our program through four years of NCAA probation" that ends Feb. 1, 2007.
"However, we did not make progress on the field this season and have not been able to maintain the positive momentum necessary to return Alabama football to a place among college football's elite programs," Moore said.
Moore didn't name any potential candidates but said he was beginning a national search. The most high-profile names on Tide fans' wish list - South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and the Miami Dolphins' Nick Saban - both said Monday they were staying put.
"I have not talked with any coach, but that process will begin in the next day or so," Moore said.
Meanwhile, Kines said he hopes the school gets to go to a bowl this season.
"This group wants to go," he said.
Shula, 41, said he was "deeply disappointed" in Moore's decision. He maintained he left Alabama in better shape than the program he inherited, which was weakened by NCAA sanctions, when he replaced a fired Mike Price in May 2003.
"From my very first day on this job, I had a single mission: To return the Crimson Tide to its place among the elite programs in college football," he said in a statement. "Although I maintain that we were moving steadily in that direction, I regret sincerely that I will not be given the opportunity to finish the job I was hired to do."
Shula's six-paragraph statement was partly defiant but mostly complimentary of Alabama and the players. It concluded with "Roll Tide."
That 10-win season, he said, "was no fluke, it was evidence of a program on the rise."
Moore said he and Shula discussed the status of the program during the season, but the coach's fate wasn't decided until a meeting with Witt and school trustees late Sunday afternoon. He didn't inform Shula of the decision until after the coach had already spoken to his players that evening.
"His leadership has provided our program with much-needed stability during the past four years, and we appreciate that, as our coach, he has demonstrated impeccable character and class in every way," Witt said in a written statement. He attended an afternoon news conference but did not speak or field questions.
Shula, who went 26-23 in four seasons, started his first head coaching job in difficult fashion. He took over the proud but troubled program less than four months before the 2003 season after Price was fired following spring practice for his off-the-field behavior - mainly a night of drinking at a Pensacola, Fla., strip club. Price got the job after Dennis Franchione bolted for Texas A&M after just two years.
Moore spoke to the players about Shula's firing at noon Monday. Shula was not present.
Moore said most of the candidates would likely be coaching in a bowl game, and that the search could take a while.
"I will respect their ability to work with their teams," he said. "This will take time."
Shula, son of Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, spent 15 years as an NFL assistant before he took the Alabama job.
He received a new six-year contract in May worth $1.55 million per year. The deal extended his contract two years through early 2012, with a raise of $650,000 plus a $200,000 signing bonus. The buyout tab comes to some $4 million.
The firing of Shula means Alabama is looking for a head coach for the fourth time since 2000. The Tide has had seven coaches in the 24 years since legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant's last season in 1982. Bryant had directed the Alabama program for 25 years.
Center Antoine Caldwell seemed bemused that his coach could be fired so soon after that successful 2005 season
"I just feel like coach Shula had everything in place," Caldwell said. "I feel like he had complete, 100 percent control of this football team. I feel like he had our program on track. It's almost like we didn't go 10-2, we didn't finish ranked No. 8 in the country - like that didn't even happen."

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