University of Alabama Fires New Football Coach in Sex Scandal Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Four months after agreeing to a seven-year, $10 million contract to become the new head football coach at the University of Alabama, Mike Price was fired for inappropriate behavior. An article in Sports Illustrated magazine one week later revealed that Price—who was in Florida for a golf tournament—had spent lavishly on alcohol and private dances at a strip club and had consensual sex with two of the dancers in his hotel room. In turn, Price sued the university, Time, Inc., and the reporter for libel and defamation, and he won his case.

Summary of Event

On December 18, 2002, after fourteen years of successful leadership of the football program at Washington State University (WSU), Mike Price accepted the position of head football coach at the University of Alabama, which is arguably one of the most prestigious college football programs in the United States. He was issued, yet never signed, a seven-year, $10 million contract. The contract had a morals clause. [kw]Football Coach in Sex Scandal, University of Alabama Fires New (May 3, 2003) [kw]Sex Scandal, University of Alabama Fires New Football Coach in (May 3, 2003) Football;college Coaches;football University of Alabama football Price, Mike Yaeger, Don Witt, Robert Boudreaux, Lori Sports Illustrated (magazine) Football;college Coaches;football University of Alabama football Price, Mike Yaeger, Don Witt, Robert Boudreaux, Lori Sports Illustrated (magazine) [g]United States;May 3, 2003: University of Alabama Fires New Football Coach in Sex Scandal[03290] [c]Gambling;May 3, 2003: University of Alabama Fires New Football Coach in Sex Scandal[03290] [c]Law and the courts;May 3, 2003: University of Alabama Fires New Football Coach in Sex Scandal[03290] [c]Public morals;May 3, 2003: University of Alabama Fires New Football Coach in Sex Scandal[03290] [c]Publishing and journalism;May 3, 2003: University of Alabama Fires New Football Coach in Sex Scandal[03290] [c]Sex;May 3, 2003: University of Alabama Fires New Football Coach in Sex Scandal[03290]

On May 3, 2003, only four months into his new job, Price was fired by University of Alabama president Robert Witt. According to media accounts, Price was in Pensacola, Florida, for an appearance at the Emerald Coast Classic Golf Tournament. After arriving in Pensacola on April 16, Price headed for Arety’s Angels, a local strip club. The alleged sequence of events, as well as additional information that surfaced later, was accepted as true by Alabama officials, even though there was a dearth of corroborating evidence. Price was summarily terminated and earned the dubious distinction of losing his job at Alabama without ever coaching a single game.

News of the firing first surfaced on an Auburn University booster club Web site on April 23. The site posted rumors that Price had visited the strip club. Shortly after the Web site posting, radio talk shows, television sports shows, and newspapers across the United States turned the alleged rumors into headlines. They reported that exactly one week earlier, on April 16, Price spent hundreds of dollars on alcoholic beverages and private dances. Most damaging, however, were the accusations that Price also had sex with two dancers from the club that night, one of whom later spent $1,000 for hotel room service on Price’s credit card. The accusations came most significantly from a May 12 article by reporter Don Yaeger in Sports Illustrated (“How He Met His Destiny at a Strip Club”).

According to the article, Price introduced himself solely as “Mike” at the club, attempting to limit his public exposure. However, in no time, the football fans at the club recognized Price as the newly hired coach at Alabama. Club patrons even began to refer to him as “coach.” Witnesses said that Price bought not only many drinks but also private dances from Lori “Destiny” Boudreaux, who had worked at the strip club for fifteen years. Price allegedly broke many of the club’s rules during at least one of the dances. Boudreaux would later testify that she was propositioned by Price, who asked her to accompany him to his room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel later in the evening.

Price then left Arety’s Angels to attend the sponsors’ dinner for the Emerald Coast Classic Golf Tournament. He was professional at the dinner but soon returned to Arety’s Angels, after the meal. According to witnesses, Price kissed and fondled a waitress at the bar, which prompted club staff to warn Price that his actions were not permissible. After moving to another table, Price bought more drinks for several dancers, prompting later allegations that he had spent hundreds of dollars at the club. Just before midnight, he headed back to his hotel room, but he was not alone.

As detailed in the Sports Illustrated article, two dancers accompanied Price to his hotel room. The women claimed that they engaged in consensual sex with Price. The next morning, after Price left for the golf tournament, one of the dancers ordered $1,000 worth of room service on Price’s credit card, prompting a concerned hotel manager to call Price, who was by this time on the golf course.

Alabama officials were soon informed of the events in Pensacola, but the allegations did not come as a surprise to Alabama athletic director Mal Moore. A few weeks after Price had been hired, several female students at the university claimed that he bought them drinks and propositioned them while dining at Buffalo’s American Grille in Tuscaloosa. Moore had spoken to Price about the accusations, stressing that this type of behavior was unacceptable. In turn, Price denied the allegations.

Price was fired on May 3, based solely on unproven allegations. In July, he filed a $20 million libel Libel cases;and Mike Price[Price] suit against the University of Alabama, Time, Inc. (which owns Sports Illustrated), and Yaeger, contending that the events described by Yaeger in the Sports Illustrated article were false. On October 10, Price settled the defamation portion of the lawsuit against Time and received an undisclosed amount. He had sued for $10 million in compensatory damages and another $10 million in punitive damages.

Boudreaux confirmed in a sworn affidavit at trial that she was Yeager’s source, but she apparently did not tell the truth. Her account of what happened in Price’s hotel room was deemed hearsay by the court, so her story was not admissible at trial. The court ruling left nothing but doubt in the case of Price’s alleged sexual encounter with the strip-club dancers in Florida.

Impact

Alabama’s firing of Price sent a clear message that inappropriate behavior, even if only alleged and even if off campus, can end one’s career. Furthermore, the university’s decision to fire Price based only on uncorroborated allegations harmed the institution’s credibility. Also, following Price’s dismissal, officials were forced to find their fourth head football coach in as many years but to do so in a negative climate for the university.

Price was one of several high-profile college and university coaches within a period of a few years who were accused of inappropriate behavior and had been terminated as a result. In 2003, Rick Neuheisel, then head football coach at the University of Washington, was fired after a string of transgressions dating back to 1999. Neuheisel had lied to Washington officials about a job interview with the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football National Football League League. He also broke the National Collegiate Athletic National Collegiate Athletic Association;and gambling[gambling] Association (NCAA) rules on gambling by betting on college basketball Basketball;and gambling[gambling] games. In 2005, he settled his wrongful termination lawsuit against the NCAA and Washington for $4.5 million. In 2006, Pressler, Mike Mike Pressler, then head men’s lacrosse coach at Duke University, was forced to resign amid allegations that three of his players had raped a woman at a party. Ultimately, the accusations were found to be untrue and, in 2007, Duke and Pressler reached an undisclosed financial settlement over his forced resignation. In early 2008, Pressler also filed a defamation lawsuit against Duke, claiming that university representatives said he had not adequately supervised his athletes.

In Pullman, Washington, the home of Price’s former employer, WSU, the legacy of the famed coach descended from that of a well-respected icon to a person tainted by the fame associated with being fired from Alabama. Price moved on from his infamous night at Arety’s Angels to serve as head football coach at the University of Texas—El Paso. Football;college Coaches;football University of Alabama football Price, Mike Yaeger, Don Witt, Robert Boudreaux, Lori Sports Illustrated (magazine)

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fatsis, Stefan. “Football Coach and Time Inc. Settle Libel Suit.” The Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2005. An overview of the lawsuit settlement in Price v. Time Inc. in October, 2005.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Murphy, Kirsten. “The Price of Privilege.” News Media and the Law 28, no. 2 (2004): 17-20. A journal article that provides an excellent analysis of the firing of Mike Price.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Yaeger, Don. “How He Met His Destiny at a Strip Club.” Sports Illustrated, May 12, 2003. Examines the events that allegedly took place at Arety’s Angels and in Mike Price’s hotel room.

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