Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

UTEP Coaching Tree: Characters Welcome

Mike Price
"Anybody catch Royal Pains last night?"

The University of Texas-El Paso, the Oklahoma Sooners' season-opening opponent Saturday, has had so many characters coach its football team that the USA Network should broadcast Miner football games.

Mike Price is entering his ninth year as UTEP's head coach. Most Sooner fans may remember that he coached Washington State in the 2003 Rose Bowl when OU blasted his Cougars, 34-13. Prior to the Rose Bowl, Price had accepted the coaching job at the University of Alabama. He returned to coach in the Rose Bowl before talking off for a full-time gig at Tuscaloosa.

Six months after taking the 'Bama job, Alabama officials discovered that Price spent $200 on cocktails, private dances and tips at a strip club in Pensacola, Fla. The next morning, an unidentified woman staying in his hotel room – not his wife – charged about $1,000 in food and drink on Price's credit card. Price was fired without coaching a single game for the Crimson Tide.

Luckily for Price, he seems to have stayed out of trouble since being hired at UTEP in December 2003.

Gary Nord, the Miners' head coach from 2000 to 2003, made plenty of enemies in the Sooner Nation. He was Howard Schnellenberger's offensive coordinator during that infamous year of 1995.

Prior to that season, Nord had spoken to a roomful of dentists and commented about some of the Oklahomans he had met: "I thought the damn Kentucky people were hicks, but these people win hands down. I should've taken a dentist with me. I didn't see a full set of teeth the whole time I was on the road. Rednecks."

Sooner fans, not ones to forget that comment, heckled Nord during the OU-UTEP game in 2000, but no major incidents occurred. Prior to the game's kickoff, the video board at Owen Field displayed the message: "You have nothing to fear as long as you have coverage ... major medical and dental."

Yet, perhaps no coach angered Sooner fans more than Bill Michael. He coached the Miners from 1977 to 1981. He also was Chuck Fairbanks' assistant at OU from 1967 to 1972. Michael altered the transcripts of Jerry Jackson and Mike Phillips to make them eligible to get a scholarship to play for the Sooners.

Michael resigned, and the NCAA slapped Oklahoma with probation. Jackson had played sparingly in 1972, so the NCAA forced the team to forfeit three conference games and the Big Eight crown in 1972. The NCAA also declared Jackson ineligible for a year, disallowed the Sooners from playing bowl games for two years (1973 and 1974) and instituted a television ban for two years (1974 and 1975).