EL PASO, Texas
UTEP 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 coached a game for the Crimson Tide.
Price announced the 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, is UTEP’s offensive coordinator, but the elder Price said he was endorsing defensive coordinator Andre Patterson as the next 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.
Price, who coached 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 was set for a seven-year, $10 million contract when 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 out of 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 the last three games to begin a slide back to mediocrity that had defined the program for decades.
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 Miss, the nation’s only winless team, on Saturday.