UTEP’s Price retiring after 31 years as head coach

EL PASO, Texas — UTEP football coach Mike Price is retiring after a 31-year career notable for two Rose Bowl bids at Washington State and a drinking binge that cost him the Alabama job before he ever coached a game for the Crimson Tide.

Price, a graduate of Everett High School, announced his decision Monday with one game left in his ninth season with the Miners (3-8). He led UTEP to 8-4 records and bowl games his first two years in El Paso but hasn’t had a winning record since.

The 66-year-old Price, who started at Weber State in 1981, has a 177-182 career record entering his final game Saturday at home against Rice. He is sixth among active FBS coaches in wins.

“I’m retiring from the game I’ve loved my entire life,” Price said at a campus news conference.

Price’s son, Aaron Price, is UTEP’s offensive coordinator, but the elder Price said he was endorsing defensive coordinator Andre Patterson as the next head coach.

“I wish I could coach here forever,” Price said. “But that doesn’t happen. That’s the reality of life.”

Athletic director Bob Stull said Patterson would be considered for a hire he hopes to make before Christmas.

“I think we’ve got things in place to be very competitive,” Stull said. “We need to keep some continuity in what we’re doing.”

Price, who coached quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf in 14 years at Washington State, was a surprise choice to replace Dennis Franchione at Alabama after the 2002 season. He agreed to a seven-year, $10 million contract, but was let go by the school after he admitted he drank heavily and went to a strip club after attending a golf tournament in Florida in the spring of 2003.

Price sued the school for $20 million over his firing, but a judge threw out the lawsuit, noting the fact that Price never signed the contract. He also sued Sports Illustrated over a report that alleged he had sex with two women in his hotel room. That lawsuit was settled.

He stayed away from coaching for a year, and UTEP fans embraced him from the start, especially after his first team went to the 2004 Houston Bowl and lost a competitive game to Colorado. The Miners started 8-1 his second season but lost their last three games to begin a slide back to mediocrity.

Even though the Miners started this season 1-3, there was promise because all three losses were competitive games against Oklahoma, Mississippi and Wisconsin. But three straight losses to Conference USA teams followed, and the Miners barely beat Southern Mississippi, the nation’s only winless team, on Saturday.

Price brought his wife, Joyce, to the podium for part of his retirement speech, and fought back tears as he spoke of his close relationship with Stull, who decided to hire him less than a year after the Alabama scandal. Price didn’t mention his brief Alabama stint in a roughly half-hour news conference.

“He has been 100 percent supportive of me and really loyal,” Price said of Stull. “When the going gets bad, boy, he’s really good. He’s at his best. I didn’t win enough games. Period.”

While he finished with a losing record at UTEP, Price brought the Miners recognition they’d never seen by persuading Texas coach Mack Brown and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops to play in El Paso.

The first El Paso meeting between the Longhorns and Miners in 2008 was the most anticipated game in program history and drew a record crowd of 53,415. UTEP almost knocked off then-No. 4 Oklahoma to start this season.

Price remained a hit in the community even as the losing seasons piled up, and he said planned to stay in El Paso.

“Mike has brought a level of national attention and respect to UTEP that only an elite coach could bring,” Stull said. “While Mike’s coaching accolades are extensive, his greatest value has come in the warmth and love that he has shown the people of El Paso.”

Price started his career in 1969 with the first of two stints as an assistant at Washington State. He was also on the staffs at Missouri and the University of Puget Sound, his alma mater.

More in Sports

Poll: How do you feel about the Seahawks’ anthem decision?

Seattle stayed in the locker room during the national anthem prior to Sunday’s game.

Seahawks lose 33-27 as defense wilts in the Tennessee heat

The Titans scored 21 points in the third quarter against a gassed Seahawks defense.

Poll: Help us plan this week’s high school football coverage

This week The Herald covers HS football at Glacier Peak/Monroe, and Jackson/Lake… Continue reading

Much discussion went into ‘revolutionary’ pregame protest

The Seahawks and the Titans stayed in their locker rooms during the national anthem.

Richard Sherman and the Seahawks defense both melt down

Seattle’s standout cornerback was hit with three penalties on the same play.

Grading the Seahawks’ 33-27 loss to the Tennessee Titans

Seattle’s offense and defense each played well — for a half.

Silvertips bounce back, beat the Tri-City Americans 4-1

Tips give new head coach Dennis Williams his first WHL win a day after dropping their season opener

Mariners officially eliminated from the AL wild-card race

A 4-2 loss to the Indians assures Seattle will miss the playoffs for the 16th straight season

Video: 1970 Snohomish boys basketball team wins state

The Snohomish H.S. squad is about to be inducted into the Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame.

Most Read