It’s been a strange week for coaches and their image. Alabama football coach Mike Price goes to a charity golf tournament in Pensacola, has a few drinks, ends up in a strip bar and a woman charges $1000 of room service to his credit card the next morning in a Holiday Inn. Larry Eustachy declares himself an alcoholic after pictures were published of him kissing and being kissed by coeds on the cheek at a frat party following games his Iowa State Hawkeyes played this past season.
Price was fired on Saturday by Alabama before coaching one game for the Tide. In fact, he hadn’t even signed his 7-year $10 million contract. Price had lead the team through spring drills and thought he was the man to lead Alabama back to national prominence. He said all the right things when being introduced as Dennis Franchione’s successor. “I want to be the second best coach in Alabama history,” referring to Bear Bryant’s legacy.
There was a clause in his contract that allowed the school to get rid of him for bringing “disrepute” on him and the university. They exercised that clause in firing him. Price’s situation could involve some legal issues, although just the act of going to a strip club and having a woman charge room service to your credit card shouldn’t put you in jail. Should they cost you your job? Perhaps if it’s part of a pattern of behavior, but for all of the human failings made public these days, you would think a second chance would be in order for Price and others. Could he still lead? Certainly. Could he be an example that you can make a mistake, pay a price (both monetarily and emotionally) and return? Of course. But Alabama had had their share of scandal (Mike DuBose) recently and wasn’t willing to have any blemish on their new coach’s record. Price hadn’t won any games for the Tide either, meaning he didn’t have any leverage among boosters. Nobody was actually “casting the first stone” at Price, except the ‘Bama administration. Strip club business no doubt will be down in the Panhandle among those wearing crimson and white. Price knew better, but made an error in judgment. He should have paid a price, but in this case, the punishment didn’t fit the crime.
He also could have been a victim of Larry Eustachy’s public battle with Iowa State’s administration. Eustachy was suspended and the Athletic Director wants him fired. Eustachy is fighting for his job, and thinks his confession of guilt should give him a second chance. The problem is, university administrations have never been places where controversy is tolerated, unless of course, it means raising more money. They want problems swept under the rug, they want them to go away, not become part of the school’s landscape. Just get rid of the problem.
It all comes back to money. They don’t want to offend any large donors to the point where the money dries up. So fire the coach and move on. Eustachy’s declaration that he’s an alcoholic is either a true attempt to get his life in order or, from a cynical viewpoint, a desperate and elaborate attempt to keep his job. Any 47-year old man knows a fraternity or sorority party is not where they should be. Anybody with a million dollar salary paid by a state university really knows that’s not where they should end up. The only thing they’re going to find there is trouble. An admission of personal foibles doesn’t always keep the critics at bay. If Eustachy’s actions are a one time thing and not part of a pattern, he should be allowed to get his life in order.
But getting a second chance in life doesn’t always mean keeping your job. If we’ve learned one thing it’s that your boss is your boss. If they want you gone, you’re gone. Even when it’s not fair.