TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama turned to one of its own Thursday, hiring Mike Shula to replace fired football coach Mike Price, hoping its former quarterback can quickly replace scandal with success.
Shula, who agreed to terms on a six-year contract worth $900,000 per year, succeeds Price, who was fired last Saturday for off-the-field behavior before coaching his first game.
Shula, 37, met with the players for about 20 minutes Thursday night, and made an impression on a group that must adjust to their third coach in six months.
"You can look in his eyes and tell how hungry he is and how much he wants this job and how much he wants to succeed," quarterback Brodie Croyle said. "That's three-fourths of it."
Shula has spent 15 years as an NFL assistant, including the past three as the Miami Dolphins' quarterbacks coach.
He has no experience as a head coach or on a college staff, but did have two huge factors in his favor: impeccable bloodlines and ties to the Crimson Tide program.
"It was that mix of enthusiasm, experience and ties to the University of Alabama that made Mike the perfect fit for this job," athletic director Mal Moore said in a statement. "We talked with Mike Wednesday night and he was able to reach a decision quickly. We are obviously excited to have Mike on board."
He couldn't have picked a much tougher test. Not only is Alabama one year into a 5-year NCAA probation, but Price's abrupt firing leaves Shula only 123 days to prepare for the season opener against South Florida and only about three weeks of practice in August to install a new system.
"I am obviously excited about this job," Shula said. "There is a bright future ahead for Alabama. … I am thrilled to once again be a part of Alabama football."
Price replaced Dennis Franchione last December. They were outsiders with short tenures. Franchione left for Texas A&M two years after replacing Mike DuBose, another Alabama alum who survived a sexual harassment settlement with his former secretary but not two losing seasons in four years.
Shula was a three-year starter and two-time All-Southeastern Conference pick at quarterback for the Crimson Tide from 1984-86. Then he began to climb the coaching ladder, with stops at Tampa Bay, Miami, Chicago, Tampa Bay again and Miami again.
Alabama targeted three NFL assistants and former Tide players in its five-day search to replace Price.
Moore and Witt also interviewed Carolina Panthers assistant Richard Williamson and Green Bay Packers assistant Sylvester Croom on Monday.
An attorney for Price told The Birmingham News he is considering appealing the termination.
Moore's previous two hires — Price from Washington State and Franchione from Texas Christian — had no previous Alabama ties.
At 37, Shula is Alabama's youngest coach since Frank Thomas was hired in 1931 at 33. Thomas led Alabama to a national title in 1934.
"We're looking forward to getting this thing going," offensive lineman Wesley Britt said. "Coach Shula knows what we've been through, knows we've been through a lot here, and wants to get this program back on top."
The youngest head coach in the SEC has already convinced at least one person.
"He's going to make us win," Croyle said. "He's going to be the backbone of this team and we're going to rally around him. It's going to be Alabama football."
Shula also got endorsements from Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt and quarterback Jay Fiedler.
"He has a great background. He's been exposed to a lot of winning ways," Wannstedt said.
"He has a good personality and a sincere personality. He's committed to everything he does and I know he's committed to the University of Alabama."
Shula is the only quarterback coach Fiedler worked with in Miami, both arriving three years ago.
"I think he'll make an excellent coach," Fiedler said. He's been around coaching his whole life and his father was a coach.
"A little more pressure comes with a head coaching position," he added, "but I'm sure he'll be able to handle it."
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