On April 23 an Auburn fan with the screen name EagleKlaw visited
autigers.com, a website for Tigers boosters, and posted a message
that may well have marked the beginning of the end of Mike
Price's brief tenure as football coach at bitter rival Alabama:
"Someone told me the night before the [Emerald Coast Classic
Pro-Am] that Mike Price had lost his Visa card and was in a panic
because of who he was with when he lost it. Has anyone else heard
about this?" Another fan, TigerRat, replied the next morning: "I
hear it was a couple of working girls." ¬∂ The subject of Price's
behavior while in Pensacola., Fla., for the golf tournament soon
became the talk of sports radio shows throughout the Southeast.
It was reported that Price had in fact been in a strip club for
several hours, spending hundreds of dollars on drinks, private
dances and tips for the dancers, and that the next morning an
unidentified woman had charged nearly $1,000 of hotel room
service on the coach's credit card. Last Saturday, following a
meeting of the university's board of trustees, Price, a surprise
hire last December when he was given a seven-year, $10 million
contract to leave Washington State, was fired before ever
coaching a game for the Crimson Tide.
"He was a nice enough guy, but he never really fit in," one
Alabama booster who asked to remain anonymous said of Price, a
Colorado native who had spent all but three years of his coaching
career west of the Rockies. "Coming from where he came from, I
don't think he could really grasp what a spotlight he was in.
This is a different world down here when it comes to our
football. You really need a little good ol' boy, a hair of
redneck and a lot of back-slapping in you. Everyone in the state
is a critic, and everywhere you go, people are watching. He never
got that this ain't the Pac-10."
From numerous interviews with people who spent time with or saw
Price in Pensacola, SI has pieced together the following account
of the events that ultimately led to his dismissal: On April 16,
Price flew from Tuscaloosa to Pensacola aboard the jet of Alabama
businessman James Lee III, en route to the Emerald Coast Classic,
a stop on the PGA Champions tour that was to be played that
weekend. Price was part of the field for the celebrity pro-am.
The 57-year-old coach had barely hit the ground in Pensacola that
afternoon when he headed to Arety's Angels, one of the city's six
strip clubs, settled at a table not far from the main stage and
started buying drinks for dancers, according to two witnesses
interviewed last week by SI. "He introduced himself as Mike,"
said waitress Amanda York. "But I love Alabama football, and I
knew who he was. So later I leaned down and called him 'Coach.'
He just held his finger to his lips as if to say, 'Don't tell.'"
According to the two witnesses, Price spent most of his time that
afternoon buying dances from and drinks for Lori (Destiny)
Boudreaux, a 36-year-old married mother of two who has worked in
strip clubs for 15 years. "He offered to buy me a drink and asked
me to sit with him," Boudreaux told SI. "I offered him a table
dance. He tipped me $60. Then he asked me to take him to the
semiprivate dance area. He got a little bad there. We have rules,
and touching is not allowed."
Boudreaux said Price told her that he was married and had kids
but never mentioned what he did for a living. "He told me I was
the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen," Boudreaux said. "He
kept telling me he had a room at the [Crowne Plaza] Hotel, and he
wanted me to meet him there late that night. He was definitely
persistent. I told him my husband was coming to pick me up after
work, which he did, by the way. "
After about two hours at the club, Price headed to the golf
tournament's sponsors' dinner. "On his way out, he told me to
remember his offer and to meet him at the hotel," Boudreaux told
SI. "In 15 years I've had thousands of men ask me to meet them
after work. He was asking in ways that told me he'd done this
before." At dinner Price "shook hands and worked the room pretty
well," according to a coach in attendance. "He gave no indication
that he had been out on the town already, and when several of us
looked for him after dinner to go out, he was already gone."
Apparently Price made a beeline back to the club, which prides
itself, said owner Arety Kapetanis, on being "a bar so friendly,
it should be known as Cheers with tits." And this time everybody
knew Price's name.
"He wasn't here long when a buddy of mine, who was here with his
wife celebrating their anniversary, came over and said, 'Do you
know who that is?'" said club manager Gary Hodge. "These folks
were [University of Florida] Gators and huge football fans, so
they knew it was the new Alabama coach. I welcomed [Price] to the
club." Before long, Hodge said, Price was buying the couple a
congratulatory drink, and several people around him started
calling Price "Coach."
Later, according to two witnesses, Price was sitting at the bar
kissing and fondling a waitress until a reminder from the deejay
prompted him to stop. Then Price moved to a table where he
purchased $30 drinks for several dancers. "All told he probably
spent a couple hundred dollars on drinks and a little more than
that on dances," Kapetanis said. "Then there were the tips, and
I'm told he tipped well. We're used to local celebrities coming
around, but not someone quite like him."
At about midnight Price headed back to the hotel. He eventually
met up with two women, both of whom he had earlier propositioned
for sex, according to one of the women, who agreed to speak to SI
about the hotel-room liaison on the condition that her name not
be used. The woman, who declined comment when asked if she was
paid for the evening, said that the threesome engaged "in some
pretty aggressive sex." She said that at one point she and her
female companion decided to add a little levity to the activity:
"We started screaming 'Roll Tide!' and he was yelling back, 'It's
rolling, baby, it's rolling.'" (Reached on his cellphone on
Sunday, Price said that he visited Arety's only once on April
16--after the sponsors' dinner--and denied having sex with two
women in his hotel room or even inviting anyone to the room.)
The next morning, according to the woman interviewed by SI, she
got up early and left the hotel before Price departed for his
eight o'clock tee time. On the course he seemed neither worried
nor distracted, playing partner Larry Wilkin, a Tuscaloosa
businessman, told reporters last week. Wilkin said Price received
a couple of calls on his cellphone while on the course, including
one from his wife, Joyce. But after Price's round was complete,
tournament director Phil Garcia alerted him to a problem back at
the hotel. Sources said Garcia told Price that a woman in his
room had ordered nearly $1,000 worth of food from room
service--"At least one of everything on the menu, all in to-go
boxes," one hotel employee told SI--and that the hotel had
refused to let her leave with the food because it was Price's
credit card that was to be charged. Price left the course shortly
thereafter, went back to the hotel and settled the tab.
By the time the SEC rumor mill began to grind, Price's hopes of
becoming "the second greatest coach in Alabama history," as he
put it at the time of his hiring, were starting to fade.
According to a source close to the athletic department, Price had
already been chastised twice by athletic director Mal Moore for
spending time buying drinks for students and "generally serving
as the life of the party in too many bars."
In fact, two Alabama students spoke to SI on Monday about an
incident that apparently led to one of Moore's conversations with
Price. According to one of the students, a few weeks after Price
was hired, the coach went to Buffalo's American Grille near
campus and, after four hours of drinking, propositioned some
female students. "I heard him tell several girls who he was
buying drinks for that his wife was still back in Washington and
he wanted them to come to his room at the GameDay Condos," one of
the student sources said. "One of the girls lives at GameDay, and
when we went by there at 2:30 a.m., he was stumbling around and
told us he had forgotten the entry code [he needed] to get up in
the elevator. One girl offered to help, and he tried to talk her
into coming to his condo. Everyone was kind of shocked." Neither
Price nor Moore could be reached for comment on Monday.
As the story of Price's night in Pensacola became big news in
Alabama, university president Robert Witt, just three months on
the job, left Price twisting in the wind. The coach acknowledged
"mistakes" but appeared confident that he wouldn't lose his job.
Witt decided otherwise. In announcing Price's dismissal last
Saturday, he said that the coach had failed to live his "personal
and professional life in a manner consistent with university
It was the latest setback for a storied program that has won
seven national titles but has been in turmoil since the
mid-1990s. The Tide is on NCAA probation and ineligible for a
bowl game next season because of rules violations under coach
Mike DuBose, who was forced out in 2000 during a 3-8 season in
which he admitted to having lied about an affair with his
secretary. Dennis Franchione bailed out after last season to take
the job at Texas A&M. Price's successor--former Crimson Tide
quarterback Mike Shula, a Miami Dolphins assistant, was the
leading candidate as of Monday--will be Alabama's fourth coach in
After his fate had been sealed on Saturday, Price told reporters
that while he was sorry, he didn't deserve dismissal. "I don't
think the punishment meets the crime," said the coach, whose sons
Eric, 36, and Aaron, 32, are expected to step down as Crimson
Tide assistants. "I think President Witt is making a mistake.
He's not breaking the law, but he's making an error in judgment."
As details of Price's exploits became public last week, many were
saying the same thing about him. "I guess what's most surprising
is that with so many people seeing him at the strip club and so
many rivals sitting at the golf tournament when they told him a
girl was in his room ordering steaks, you've got to wonder how it
was kept quiet even this long," one longtime Alabama high school
coach said. "I don't think Mike Price ever fully understood that
when you're football coach at Alabama, you're the most
significant figure in the state. You're more well-known than the
Kapetanis, owner of the strip club, didn't initially grasp that
either. "Two weeks ago I had never heard of Mike Price, and I
can't say I had ever seen an Alabama football game," she said.
"Now I've got 15 television trucks parked outside with reporters
doing live shots. I guess at least two people figured out this
week how big Alabama football is. Mike Price and me."
was definitely persistent."