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Washington State's Price leaving for Alabama


SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ Mike Price guided Washington State to unprecedented success in his 14 seasons _ two Rose Bowls and the No. 3 spot in the Bowl Championship Series at one point this season.

When Alabama came calling, however, Price couldn't resist taking over one of college football's most powerful programs, even though it means riding out the remainder of the Crimson Tide's NCAA probation.

``I just can't pass it up,'' the 56-year-old coach said Tuesday night after informing his players of the decision. ``I'm getting up there. I've got to do this for my family.''

Some of his players were upset at Price's sudden announcement.

``We thought he'd be here forever,'' defensive tackle Jeremey Williams said after emerging from the meeting.

Price said he regretted giving them the impression earlier in the week that he was staying in Pullman.

``If you promise somebody something and you don't do it, that's not right,'' Price said. ``I hope they can find it in their hearts to understand.''

Washington State scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to discuss its coaching situation, but Price already said the team would make defensive coordinator Bill Doba the new coach.

Price replaces Dennis Franchione, who left Alabama on Dec. 5 after two seasons to take over at Texas A&M. Price stands to get a hefty pay raise over the maximum $900,000 he stood to make at Washington State.

Price said he plans to stay to coach the Cougars (10-2) in the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma on Jan. 1.

With star quarterback Jason Gesser, Washington State won a share of the Pac-10 title with Southern California as the Cougars won 10 games for the second straight year. After a loss at Ohio State in the third week, the Cougars won seven straight to get into the national championship picture, but then lost to rival Washington at home, 29-26 in three overtimes.

Washington State came back to defeat UCLA on the road, clinching the Rose Bowl berth. Five of the nine bowl games in the Cougars' history have come with Price as coach.

Despite his accomplishments, Price was not Alabama's first choice. Last week, New Orleans Saints assistant Mike Riley turned down the job, and several days earlier South Florida coach Jim Leavitt withdrew his name from consideration.

Alabama's NCAA probation was a factor in Franchione leaving town, and Price takes over a team that went 10-3 but is ineligible for a bowl game this season and next. The sanctions, for recruiting violations that occurred before Franchione arrived, also include scholarship reductions.

Price gave no hint about his plans earlier Tuesday. His weekly teleconference was frequently interrupted with questions about the Alabama job, but he refused to discuss it.

``This press conference is for the Rose Bowl and the Washington State Cougars, and any job speculation will not be discussed and will not be commented on,'' he said.

He confirmed that he told UCLA athletic officials late Monday he was not interested in that job, which became vacant after Price's friend Bob Toledo was fired. Riley remains a top candidate for the Bruins' job.

UCLA was the only team that asked Washington State officials for permission to talk to Price, Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk said earlier.
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