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Mike Shula is favorite to replace Price as Alabama football coach
ESPN.com news services
While Alabama is focusing its search around three NFL assistants, it became clear Monday that Mike Shula is the university's favorite to replace ousted football coach Mike Price.
Shula, a former Crimson Tide quarterback who is now a quarterbacks coach for the Miami Dolphins, met Sunday with Alabama athletic director Mal Moore and university president Robert Witt in Miami, according to newspaper reports.
"I will admit, I'm an alumni, I had great memories there. I love Alabama, just like everybody else that ever played there and that's really all I have to say," Shula told reporters in Miami on Monday.
Packers running backs coach Sylvester Croom and Panthers receivers coach Richard Williamson also figure prominently in Alabama's search to replace Price, sources with ties to the university told ESPN.com. Moore and Witt met with Williamson in Atlanta on Monday, according to newspaper reports.
Price, 57, was fired Saturday -- months before he could coach his first game -- because of questionable off-the-field conduct that included spending hundreds of dollars at a Pensacola, Fla., topless bar. A woman reportedly ordered about $1,000 in food from room service sent to his hotel room the following morning.
University sources familiar with the search also told ESPN.com on Monday that Moore privately acknowledged that he erred in hiring "outsiders" -- read Washington State's Price and TCU's Dennis Franchione, who was replaced by Price -- to coach the team and is determined to turn over the foundering program to someone with strong school ties.
"I'm looking for who I think is the best for this situation and who could come in with this very awkward time frame," Moore told The Associated Press.
Those sources said the search in all likelihood will end at Shula, and that Moore may not move on to other potential coaches until he determines whether Shula wants the job. The No. 2 candidate, the sources said, would be Croom, another former Alabama standout.
"The feeling people have gotten (from Moore)," said one source with strong insight to the search, "is that he believes this situation has to be fixed by an Alabama man. That's the only way, in his mind, to restore the program. And he's going to direct all of his efforts that way, to exhaust the possibilities, from a very short list."
Shula, 37, was an all-SEC quarterback under coach Ray Perkins in the mid-1980s. Prior to joining the Dolphins, Shula was the offensive coordinator for the Buccaneers from 1996-99.
Shula was a candidate to coach Alabama after the departure of Franchione, who left the program for the Texas A&M job after last season. Shula, however, was never interviewed, and the Crimson Tide turned to Price.
Croom, 48, was an assistant coach at Alabama for 10 seasons (1977-86), including the Tide's 1978-79 back-to-back national-title teams. He was an All-America center under coach Paul "Bear" Bryant in 1974.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson urged Alabama to consider hiring a black coach, such as Croom. The SEC has never had a black head football coach.
"The crisis at the University of Alabama creates an opportunity for them to consider a qualified African-American football coach," Jackson, who didn't suggest any specific candidates, told AP.
Packers coach Mike Sherman made a pitch for Croom on Sunday.
"There probably isn't a better prospect in all of football, college or pros for that job than Sylvester Croom," Sherman said. "I'd hate to lose him because he's such a quality person and coach. There's no better candidate."
Croom, a Tuscaloosa native, has been an NFL assistant for 16 years, including the last two as Green Bay's running backs coach. He also was the Detroit Lions' offensive coordinator from 1997-2000.
Williamson, 62, a teammate of Moore's on Bryant's first national championship team in 1961, also coached with Moore on Bryant's staff from 1964-71. Williamson is a former head coach of the Bucs (1990-91) and has been an assistant with the Panthers since the team joined the NFL in 1995. He was a finalist for the Alabama job when Gene Stallings was hired in 1990.
"I've always said I wanted to return to Alabama and be the head coach," Williamson told the Gaston (N.C.) Gazette for Tuesday's editions. "Right now, it's about the only job I would take. If it happens, it happens. If not, I still have a great job here with the Panthers."
Williamson has been in the mix in previous Alabama searches and, unlike Croom and Shula, has head coaching experience. Williamson coached Memphis State from 1975-80 and was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' coach for the final three games of the 1990 season and for all of 1991.
Former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin, who has expressed interest in the Alabama job through intermediaries, likely will not be considered. Moore and some other prominent officials in the Alabama hierarchy agree that Coughlin, fired by the Jaguars after last season, possesses the respect, discipline and image that want in their next coach.
However, there is an underlying concern that, if Coughlin accepted the job and succeeded in resurrecting the once-powerful program, he might eventually be lured back to the NFL. Moore has had enough of revolving doors the last few years.
Given the time on the college football calendar -- post-spring practice and the middle of the evaluation period for next fall's high school seniors -- it's not surprising that Alabama has focused on NFL assistant coaches. This is a relatively quiet period in the NFL.
ESPN.com senior writers Len Pasquarelli and Ivan Maisel contributed to this story. Information from The Associated Press also was included.
The S.E.C. has NEVER had a black Head Coach ?
These Colleges do whatever they want.......
And they complain about the N.F.L.
The Pro Football... Pro Basketball.... and Pro Baseball get all
the bad press for not hiring Blacks, But the Colleges....
I still can't believe that...
The S.E.C. has never had a Black Head Coach !!!!!!
I like the choice of Mike Shula, But seeing that makes you want to
hire the guy from Green Bay........
I don't think so, I think they should hire the most qualified person. Don't get me wrong, I think there is a lot of racism going on in this country, but I would not want to be hired just because I was black! They should interview a bunch of candidates, unlike the Lions with Mariucci. That was ridiculous, they only asked other to show up to put up a front.