After eight years on the job, Mike Price has announced he will step down as head coach of the UTEP Miners and retire from the profession all together. He had great success in El Paso, leading the Miners to three bowl games in six years after only having gone to two in more than 33 years, but most fans around the nation, and certainly all of you reading this right now, will remember him as being one of the greatest coaches to ever helm the Washington State program.
Price Photo Credit: Marvin Gentry - US Presswire
Price, who grew up in Everett, Wash. and played for two seasons on the Washington State football team, came to WSU as a head coach in 1989 after coaching at Weber State. When he arrived, he was replacing Dennis Erickson, a coach who left the school for a small football program back east. His goal was to mend the wounds caused by Erickson's departure.
"Because we are hurting a little... I guess I'm here to save the day, like Mighty Mouse, so to speak."
- Mike Price, March 15, 1989
He may not have been Mighty Mouse, but he sure did save the day. Prior to Price arriving at Washington State, the Cougars had been to two rose bowls, the last being a 24-0 loss to Alabama in 1930. Price led the Cougars to their first Rose Bowl in almost 70 years during the 1997 season in a game that, for some reason, still has not been officially completed.
He would do it again in 2002, taking a Jason Gesser led team to Pasadena, Calif. This one, unfortunately, did have an end. Despite the loss, this was the Cougar's second straight 10 win season, a tradition Bill Doba would continue in 2003. Three straight ten win seasons is a feat rarely seen in college football and, after experiencing what we have in the past couple years, it's something that seems all the more impressive looking back.
I was four years from being born when Price took over for Erickson, and I was exactly nine months old when he led the team to the first bowl game of his tenure, the 1992 Copper Bowl, but I still know his impact. Stories about his time here from my dad and other Cougar fans have impressed how important he was to developing a culture here at Washington State. No what happened after he left, nothing can tarnish what he did for all Cougars, past, present, and future. It would be great to see Price come back to the university in some form and help lead the Cougars, and if anyone was going to bring him back, it would be Bill Moos.
One person on campus during Price's time at Washington State was our own Kyle Sherwood, who shared his thoughts on coach Price:
In October of 1997, the Cougs were 4-0 and ranked #15 in the country after early wins over UCLA, USC and Illinois and were heading to Oregon to take on Mike Bellotti’s Ducks. I remember walking up to the hill for class the Wednesday of that week and there was a commotion on Glenn Terrell Mall. There was Mike Price, dressed to the nines in Duck-Hunting gear, complete with musket. He looked every bit the part of Elmer Fudd, but the point was clear: Mike Price was part of the University.
Looking back at college, Mike Price was one of my favorite things about WSU; although living through ’98-00, I didn’t know it at the time. His one-back offense was like nothing else being run in the Pac-12, making Cougar football appointment viewing on Saturdays, win or lose. I got to go to a Rose Bowl my first year in school and a Sun Bowl in my last, both ten win seasons. Even the losing seasons brought forth entertainment (I’m the King of Poop Island). The man molded the three best Quarterbacks in school history, brought a Pac-10 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl to Cougars in their sixties who never thought they’d see it happen….and then he did it again five years later.
When Mike Price left for Alabama, like everyone else, I felt betrayed. But as the anecdotes started coming out over the years detailing the reasons for him leaving, I will now forever hold a grudge against Jim Sterk and Victory Lane for pushing him out instead of giving him the lifetime contract he deserved.
At some point, some portion of Martin Stadium needs to be named after Mike Price. Someone who is much richer than I who is reading this needs to make this happen. His contributions to both WSU Football and the University as a whole are too great to not be recognized.
I will be sure to make my way home in time to catch his last game Saturday when UTEP takes on Rice (UTEP’s site says it’s on the FCS channels) and root like hell the Miners send him out a victor. A guy as classy as Coach Price who went through as much crap as he did 10 years ago deserves nothing less.
And it goes without saying, Mike Price taught us all the most valuable lesson in life: Always sign the damn contract.
Whether you're like me and learned how important Price was by looking through the history books, or like Kyle and lived through his time at the university, we want to here your thoughts. What are you feelings and memories about Mike Price's career both overall and at Washington State? Leave us a comment below.