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UTEP coach Mike Price announces his retirement

By Leonard Martinez
Published On: Jan 14 2014 07:52:55 PM CST

UTEP Coach Mike Price meets the media on Aug. 27 and discusses upcoming Oklahoma game.

El Paso, Texas -

UTEP Head Football Coach Mike Price announced Monday he will be retiring after Saturday's home game - the final game of the 2012 season.

Price, 66, in the final year of his contract, made the announcement during his weekly news conference. He built up the suspense by first talking about UTEP's win over Southern Miss. this past weekend.

"Last night I talked to our coaches about keeping the worst kept secret in the Durham Center, that Rice would be my last game as your head coach. I wanted to tell [the coaches] face to face and make it as personal as possible. I told the team this morning face to face," Price said at the news conference. "I want to keep the emphasis on Rice, and I want to keep the emphasis this week on our seniors. I am retiring from the game that I have loved and respected my whole life ... 44 years, I guess. That's all I've wanted to be. I know some of you wanted to be track stars or soccer stars. All I've ever wanted to be is a football coach. It has been a great life. Talk about being lucky. Every day has been fun. I have respected the game. I wish I could coach here forever. But that doesn't happen. That's the reality of life. I'm sure proud to go out with this group of players. They are great kids, great men and lots of fun to be around. I'm just so proud of them. They have been so good to coach. That has made this year a lot better. The won-lost record isn't what we wanted it to be."

His wife, Joyce, joined him at the podium during part of the news conference and he thanked her for being with him for 46 years and said they would be spending a lot of time together.

About the football program, he said "I know we are leaving the program solid for the next coach. Every player is eligible."

"Everything you want in a young man is what we have on our team right now. They represent our school. And I mean our school. We didn't all go to school at UTEP, but whether you went here or not, we're all Miners," Price said. "We all want the Miners to do well. We want UTEP to be successful. And I intend to support this program and help this city as much as I can in the future. This is mine and Joyce's home now, and we're El Pasoans"

He added that the expectation level of the football team has been raised during his tenure.

“We raised our national recognition,” Price said. “We changed our self-image.”

Price said he would like to see UTEP defensive coordinator get the head coaching job.

"I would be remiss to say that I'm not 100 percent supportive of Andre Patterson to succeed me as the head coach. It is not my decision, but I do want to make that perfectly clear if anybody wants to listen," Price said.

Price began his long list of thank yous by thanking UTEP President Diana Natalicio for taking a chance on hiring him on Dec. 21, 2003.

"I'm very thankful to President Natalicio for giving us this opportunity," Price said. "It has been the chance of a lifetime. I am very appreciative of the loyal support by Director of Athletics Bob Stull. I can't thank him enough for his patience and support. This is my last year of coaching. It is great go out with this group of fine student-athletes and coaches. Although I didn't go to school here, I'm a Miner. Joyce and I are proud to be El Pasoans."

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 got in trouble before he was supposed to sign 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.

UTEP hired Price a few months after the Alabama debacle.

Natalicio did not attend the news conference because she is in Brazil. UTEP Executive Vice President Richard Adauto also did not attend the news conference, although he is in town, according to his assistant.

"We can't thank Mike enough for all he has given our university and the El Paso community over the last nine years," Natalicio said in a statement. "Mike's contributions, however, extend far beyond increasing the national awareness and level of competitiveness in our football program. He has been a tremendous ambassador for UTEP and won over the entire city through his kind-heartedness, sincerity and sense of humor. We wish Mike the best as he begins a new chapter of his life."

Stull said at the news conference that he would like to have a head coach hired by Christmas.

"We will never spend $2 million on a new coach, we just won't break the bank,"  Stull said.

Price has a base salary of $267,800 for this year.

When asked about forming a search committee for a new coach Stull replied, "I am the search committee."

"Mike and Joyce Price have been tremendous assets to UTEP and the El Paso community," Stull said. "Mike has brought a level of national attention and respect to UTEP that only an elite coach could bring. He has certainly raised the bar of expectations for our football program. While Mike's coaching accolades are extensive, his greatest value has come in the warmth and love that he has shown for the people of El Paso. He has consistently gone out of his way to interact with the community through speaking engagements, community service and the like. We have been so fortunate and grateful to call Mike Price our coach for the last nine years."

Price has a 48-60 record in nine seasons at UTEP and a 177-182 overall record in 31 seasons.

His 48 wins at UTEP give him more than any other Miners coach other than Mack Saxon who had 66 wins. Price coached the Miners to three bowl games in his 9 seasons, more than any other UTEP coach.

Price is one of only two coaches to coach the Miners more than seven seasons. Saxon coached the Miners 13 seasons.

After consecutive winning seasons and bowl game appearances his first couple years at, Price and the Miners have suffered through six consecutive losing seasons.

This year has been another disappointment for fans with the Miners winning three games and losing eight.

Home attendance has dwindled as the season has progressed.

A few promotions were added to try and boost attendance, including teachers getting four free tickets after signing up for a program. At the most recent home game,  fans were able to attend the game for free with the ticket stub from the previous night's UTEP basketball game.

Beer sales for home games were added starting with the homecoming game against Tulane. Adauto said beer sales were not added because of low attendance but did say it was hoped attendance would get a boost from the beer sales.

The team's final game this season is against Rice on Saturday at the Sun Bowl and it will be "Coach Mike Price Appreciation Day," with the first 20,000 fans receiving commemorative tickets. To see the ticket, click here. Seventeen seniors also will be honored.

"We're definitely going to continue to live here. We love it here. We have our summer home up in Coeur d'Alene that we're looking into, but the more places you go, the better El Paso looks," Price said. "We have friends here and the people are just so gracious and nice. It was obvious to me when I was looking at the stadium [in Hattiesburg] and what they're writing about the poor coach there. It's BS. You don't get that here. I've been to a lot places and I have thick skin, but they treat people with dignity and respect here and I appreciate that."

More Price quotes from his retirement news conference:

(On staying on in the athletic department)
"I don't know what capacity that would be. I have no plans right now. I'm interested in staying on board as a booster and as a supporter, and I will do anything the athletic department asks me to do. I'm in all the way. I'm not jumping out of the boat. I have been an athletic director, and I don't want that job. This guy [Bob Stull] is the best at what he does. If the new coach wants advice, that's fine. I'm definitely going to be here to support these players. I'm disappointed I can't be here to coach the freshmen I've recruited. If I'm asked, I'll be there, but right now we'll probably take a little time off."

(On when he decided to retire)
"We've been talking about it for a couple of weeks. As you talk and discuss it with people, it starts to get out. I kind of wanted to wait until the end of the year, but this is ok. We have a responsible team. They're going to be motivated and our coaches aren't going to quit on anybody. They're going to work hard to make this a great week."

(On his legacy)
"That's hard for me to say. I'm just so happy with the relationships I have built here in El Paso. It's just going to continue. It's going to be a great chapter in Joyce and my life. We don't know what we want to do, but we're going to be around and support athletics in this community, and maybe do some charity work she is interested in becoming involved with, helping high school students get advanced scholarships and other stuff like that. I can't say one thing other than that I think we've been representative and I think we've been competitive. We just haven't won enough games."

(On maintaining continuity in the football program)
"I think there is going to be continuity in our program. I think if Andre gets the job, that's awesome. But we have awesome assistant coaches here, and they're going to be retained and we have awesome support staff and they're going to be retained. Nobody is running around threatening to fire people. Bob is the best in the business at hiring people. His only mistake was me [laughs]."

(On keeping the recruiting class together)
"Recruiting is definitely an issue. We have 14 kids who have committed to us. Our staff and I are going to work on it and talk to the parents about the program. We're going to solidify those [commitments] with coach Stull's help."

(On meeting with the team)
"The players were a little bit stunned. They probably thought it would be after the last game. I don't think they were shocked. With this group, I'm not worrying about any quit or anybody going sideways on us."

(On what he has done for UTEP)
"Probably the main thing we've done is raise our expectation level, raised our attitude, raised our self image. What do the kids in high school think about UTEP now? Do they want to go here? Yeah, it's a great place. Do they want national recognition and play in bowl games and enjoy winning seasons and go into locker rooms that are beautiful and nice and be treated with dignity in the community? Yes. This is a great place to play college football."

(What's the hardest thing about consistently winning here?)
"I have been other places where it is harder to win than UTEP. That is a cop out to me. I think you can win here. I didn't do a good enough job and didn't win enough games. That's my fault."

(How much would a packed Sun Bowl mean on Saturday?)
"It would be great. It would be awesome. The next step is to give the beer away free. That will get them in here!" [Laughs]

(On the best day of his UTEP tenure)
"The day I stood up here and got the job. That meant an awful lot to the Price family. There are only two people responsible for that, who took a chance on me, and that's Diana and Bob. I can call her Diana now [laughs]."

(On staying in El Paso)
"We're definitely going to continue to live here. We love it here. We have our summer home up in Coeur d'Alene that we're looking into, but the more places you go, the better El Paso looks. We have friends here and the people are just so gracious and nice. It was obvious to me when I was looking at the stadium [in Hattiesburg] and what they're writing about the poor coach there. It's BS. You don't get that here. I've been to a lot places and I have thick skin, but they treat people with dignity and respect here and I appreciate that."

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