Alabama fans react to Shula being fired

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. &045; The University of Alabama Director of Athletics announced yesterday that Mike Shula would not be retained as its head football coach. The Alabama coach was fired after a 6-6 season that ended with three straight losses, including a defeat by state rival Auburn.

It’s disappointing,&8221; said Ronnie Snelgrove of Demopolis, an avid Alabama fan. &8220;I thought he’d get another year. And being a young guy I thought he’d be around a while. It seemed at 10 a.m. they were all for him, but at 10:30 he was fired&8221;

Moore said Monday that defensive coordinator Joe Kines would serve as interim head coach and a national search would begin for &8220;a proven head coach with a proven record of achievement.&8221;

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Alabama is bowl-eligible but it has not been determined if the Tide will receive an invitation to a post-season game.

Shula, 41, a former Alabama quarterback, had no head coaching experience when he was hired in 2003, a period when Alabama was weakened by NCAA sanctions and embarrassed by two abrupt coaching changes in less than a year.

Shula was winless in four tries against Auburn, his team’s biggest rival. The Tigers beat the Crimson Tide 22-15 on Nov. 18, leaving Shula to answer questions about his job security.

Shula became the first Tide coach to lose four consecutive games to Auburn, including two at Bryant-Denny Stadium. But he came under considerable fire two weeks before that, when Alabama was stunned by Mississippi State _and former Tide All-American Sylvester Croom, the runner-up to Shula for the Tuscaloosa job in 2003.

Shula took over the proud but troubled program less than four months before the 2003 season after Mike Price was fired following spring practice for his off-the-field behavior &045; specifically a night of drinking at a Pensacola, Fla., strip club. Price got the job after Dennis Franchione bolted for Texas A&M.

Shula led Alabama to a 10-2 record and a Cotton Bowl victory in his third season. He has a 26-23 record in four seasons with the Crimson Tide.

Moore praised Shula for providing &8220;stability for our program through four years of NCAA probation&8221; that ends Feb. 1, 2007.

Moore met with Alabama players and planned an afternoon news conference. Asked not to talk to reporters, Tide players had no immediate comment on Shula’s firing. Shula was not seen as players emerged from the meeting with Moore.

University President Robert E. Witt said he supported Moore’s decision to seek a new coach. In a statement, he said he wanted to assure Tide fans &8220;that we are working hard to return Alabama football to the championship level we all expect.&8221;

The firing of Shula means Alabama is looking for a head coach for the fourth time since 2000. The Tide has had seven coaches in the 24 years since legendary coach Paul &8220;Bear&8221; Bryant’s last season in 1982. Bryant had directed the Alabama program for 25 years.

Shula, son of Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, spent 15 years as an NFL assistant before he took the Alabama job, but had no experience as a head coach or on a college staff.

He received a new six-year contract in May worth $1.55 million per year. The deal extended his contract two years through early 2012, with a raise of $650,000 plus a $200,000 signing bonus.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.