Sports Outside the Beltway

Mike Shula Likely Out at Alabama

Despite having gotten a big raise and contract extension in the off-season, it looks like Mike Shula’s days as head coach of the storied University of Alabama Crimson Tide football program are numbered.

Paul Gattis of the Huntsville Times:

Mike Shula’s job as Alabama’s football coach is uncertain, three days after the Crimson Tide lost its third straight game to wrap up a disappointing 6-6 season.

Athletic director Mal Moore and university president Robert Witt are expected to meet with Shula regarding the future of the program. It wasn’t clear if that meeting took place Monday or is yet to occur. Momentum appears to be growing toward possibly removing Shula but the situation was termed as “fluid” by an athletic department source on Monday.


He guided the Tide to a 10-2 record in his third season last year, including landmark wins over Florida and Tennessee. Alabama capped the season by defeating Texas Tech 13-10 in the Cotton Bowl. It seemed to be a breakthrough season after the Tide went 10-15 in Shula’s first two seasons as the school endured crushing sanctions for NCAA violations committed before Shula was hired.

He was then rewarded with a new six-year contract worth $1.8 million, which Shula signed on May 4, 2006. If he is fired, the school would owe Shula $3 million, plus $200,000 for each year remaining on the contract. That raises the buyout to $4 million.

Meanwhile, Alabama officials are busy on another front. The Tide has been in contact with officials from the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego and the Motor City Bowl in Detroit. Alabama could be left out of the SEC bowl tie-ins because of its 6-6 record and may need to look elsewhere for a postseason game.


Alabama could still land in the Independence Bowl if South Carolina loses to Clemson on Saturday or if the SEC gets two teams in the BCS.

The team was awful in Shula’s first two seasons but it’s hard to hold that against him, considering he was the third head coach in a matter of weeks after Dennis Francione reneged on his contract to take the Texas A&M job and Mike Price got himself involved in a scandal involving a skanky stripper and the school was on probation for violations that occurred well before his tenure.

Still, the wheels came off at the end of last season and he is 0-4 against arch rival Auburn. The team has been simply awful this year. Paul Finebaum is blunt but accurate:

The time has come for the University of Alabama to finally man up and act like one of the greatest football powers, one with a storied tradition, instead of Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. The time has come for someone high up in the elite and rarefied air of the Alabama administration to discover the missing clue bag that should tell them Mike Shula needs to go now as the school’s head football coach.

Finally, the time has come to sincerely thank Shula for his service. Give him a gold watch. Pay him whatever his contract specifies. But most important, put the program out of its misery and give the loyal fan base an early Christmas present by hiring a legitimate head football coach, not someone who four years ago was absent from everyone’s head coaching list and likely never will be again.

That’s harsh, to be sure. But Shula was certainly not on anyone’s short list to be head coach of a major program. He was the team’s quarterback a couple decades ago and his dad was a coaching legend. On the other hand, neither he nor his brother Dave have been impressive when given a shot at running a team.

The experiment failed. It wasn’t a total disaster. It was worse. It was a slow, painful death, akin to Chinese water torture. Like one nail at a time being slowly ripped away, leaving the skin raw and bleeding.

And it was so predictable if only people could have taken the Crimson blinders off and seen this for what it really was and was always going to be. Letting a teenager drive the family car without driver’s ed will usually garner the same result — a wrecked car, or in this case a severely damaged football program.

That much is unfair. While Shula was a long shot, he had the credentials to be a head coach. And it’s not like there was a long line of outstanding coaches ready to take up the mantle of a declining program with two years left on their probation well after every other team had hired a coach.

Notre Dame and Florida made tough choices two years ago in firing Tyrone Willingham and Ron Zook, both of whom had enjoyed some success. Today, in the latest BCS standings, Florida is No. 4 and Notre Dame No. 5.

What’s the best thing one can say about Shula after four years? He’s a nice guy. Now, is that worth nearly a $2 million contract to ruin one of the crown jewels of college football?

I’ve never heard anyone say Tommy Tuberville is a nice guy. But he’s an exceptional head football coach and his résumé speaks for itself.

Sadly, it does.

I understand Larry Coker is about to hit the market. Or how about Steve Spurrier?

UPDATE (11/27): It’s happened: Alabama Fires Mike Shula

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I would hope the University of Alabama would consider letting Coach Shula having one more year for the simple fact of trying to develop some stability. I believe they played very well against some very tough opponents this year. Mark this year up as good experinence and let’s look at some game film, make some notes, and learn from our mistakes. I don’t fell that changing coaches every time we hit a rough spot is actually taking a step forward.

Posted by Chad Smith | November 22, 2006 | 08:15 pm | Permalink


Croom was an interesting candidate but hardly an obvious choice. In a long coaching career he was, what, running backs coach? Shula had been offensive coordinator for several NFL teams.

By the time Price was fired, other major programs had their head coaches in place. And the fact that Franchione had left and Price was fired, combined with the probabation situation, couldn’t have been too attractive.

Posted by James Joyner | November 25, 2006 | 08:49 am | Permalink

Surely you don’t consider the accomplishments of Sylvester Croom a success? Croom has so far demonstrated that he was no better a candidate for the head coaching job at Alabama than Shula was. Shula certainly had better experience and the race factor is mere speculation. If you are so happy with Croom than good for you! I am sure a program like Mississippi State is content with mediocrity. You are right, race should not be a factor in the hiring of a coach, but that goes both ways. A person should not be hired because of race. Croom, who from every indication is a class individual, should not have been hired at Alabama merely because of the color of his skin, but should have been judged on the content of his character and his over experience as a coach. When it comes to both, I donâ??t see where he was so superior a hire to Mike Shula.

Posted by Jeff GOld | November 27, 2006 | 08:53 am | Permalink

David, you should be careful how you choose your words as they might be perceived as slanderous; using the words ‘white’ and ‘race’ to describe negotiations which you were [most likely] not a participant in is socially irresponsible and wreaks of misplaced contempt…

Posted by Jim Goya | November 28, 2006 | 09:42 am | Permalink

Sadly, this is the 5th coach in 10 yrs since Gene Stallings “retired”. How can we evaluate a coach if one he hasn’t recruited a freshman class and coached that class to graduation and two is dealing with NCAA sanctions from a previous coach? Yes, this year was a disaster, but was it really Mike Shula’s fault? Missing from any comments is any discussion about Prothro missing all of this season.
And the comments re: Notre Dame. That team is the most overrated team in the history of college football. Let them play a SEC schedule and see where they get ranked…

Posted by Bart | November 28, 2006 | 10:16 am | Permalink

I think they fired the wrong guy. Under whose watch has all this crap happened? Mal Moore’s that’s who. Who hired Mike Dubose, Mike Price, Dennis Franchione? Mal Moore that’s who. It seems to me that the cutting should start at the top and then work it’s way down. Granted, Dave Rader should still be selling furniture or whatever it is that he was doing, but to lay this all at the feet of Mike Shula is a load of bull. He’s not in charge of the athletic program at Alabama, Mal Moore is. Why doesn’t he share in some of the responsibilty? I certainly hold him responsible for the mess in T-Town. As far as Sylvester Croom goes, I’ll say the same thing for him as I do Mike Shula. If everyone will leave him alone for a little while he’ll be successful. These two guys are having to pay for the mistakes of others right now and sometimes four years isn’t enough to get over it. I have said and I will maintain that if they leave him alone and let him run the football team like he wants to, he will be very successful in the SEC. Beating Alabama this year is definitely going to be a shot in the arm for MSU and I thank Mal Moore for that, not Mike Shula.

Posted by Ashley Fann | November 28, 2006 | 10:24 pm | Permalink

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