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Alabama names Mike Shula for Price

TUSCALOOSA, Ala., May 9 (UPI) -- As rumored, Miami Dolphins quarterback coach Mike Shula has been named the new head football coach at Alabama.

Shula replaces Mike Price, who was fired by the school last weekend after an off-the-field incident in Pensacola, Fla.

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Shula, a former Crimson Tide quarterback, was given a six-year contract worth $900,000 per year.

"I am obviously excited about this job," Shula said. "There is a bright future ahead for Alabama, especially with the new construction plans for the addition to the football building, the new weight room, and the renovation of Bryant Hall. These new facilities will all be great recruiting tools for this staff. I am thrilled to once again be a part of Alabama football."

"Mike brings a mixture of youth and experience to our program, while at the same time, a 15-year career in the NFL has prepared him for the step he is taking today," said Alabama Athletic Director Mal Moore. "It was that mix of enthusiasm, experience, and ties to the University of Alabama that made Mike the perfect for this job."

Moore began the head coach selection process with a fairly long list of possible candidates, then developed a shorter list of candidates who were interviewed. Both lists included minority candidates, experienced assistant coaches, and head football coaches.

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On Saturday, Alabama made the stunning decision to fire Price before he even coached a game for the school. He was unable to defuse the controversy surrounding his off-the-field behavior, which included a visit to a topless bar, and unusual charges to a hotel bill.

Also, it was reported by Sports Illustrated that Price says he was so drunk that he does not remember that night.

"The best advice I've been given is to move forward and not dwell on it," Shula said.

As a player, he never won an SEC championship or a national championship for the Tide.

"Those are some of the things I have as far as unfinished business," Shula said. "Again, that's why I'm here, and I'm looking forward to it. I can't say enough about how I feel and how excited I am. I can't wait to get started."

While Price had no previous ties to Alabama when he was hired away from Washington State last December, Shula quarterbacked the Crimson Tide from 1983-86, and was a starter each of his last three seasons.

At a school where traditions run deep, finding a coach with Alabama roots emerged as an essential requirement.

"I am obviously excited about this job," said Shula. "There is a bright future ahead for Alabama. I am thrilled to once again be part of Alabama football."

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NFL assistants Sylvester Croom of the Green Bay Packers and Richard Williamson of the Carolina Panthers, a pair of Alabama alumni, also were mentioned as candidates to replace Price.

Shula is the son of former Dolphins Coach Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history. He becomes the third Alabama coach in less than a year.

Price replaced Dennis Franchione, who left abruptly to become coach at Texas A&M. Like Price, he had no previous ties to Alabama.

Price coached the team during spring practice, and apparently made a favorable impression as many players argued on his behalf.

Mike Shula inherits a program that is on NCAA probation. The Crimson Tide went 10-3 last season, but were under a bowl ban that stretches to 2003 as part of NCAA sanctions that include scholarship reductions.

Alabama is one of the most recognized programs in college football, but has just once national championship since Bear Bryant retired in 1982, and that was 11 years ago under Gene Stallings.

Mike Shula played under Ray Perkins at Alabama, and was an offensive coordinator with Tampa Bay from 1996-99.

At 37, he is the youngest Alabama coach since Frank Thomas was hired in 1931 at age 33.

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Mike Shula has been an NFL assistant since 1990, and has been with the Dolphins since 2000. He was tight ends coach of the Chicago Bears from 1993-95.

"I'm very happy for Mike," said Miami Coach Dave Wannstedt. "I think he will do a great job at

Alabama. He is an outstanding leader, a person of unquestioned integrity, and a fine coach who has worked for many years to prepare himself for such

an opportunity. He is extremely organized, thoroughly understands the game, and is an outstanding teacher. In addition, he has great people skills, and

always has related well to players and coaches he has worked with. Perhaps the highest compliment I could give Mike is that if I had a son, I would be thrilled if he were to play for him."

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