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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:19 p.m., Monday, November 27, 2006

Alabama makes it official: Shula fired

John Zenor
Associated Press

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Mike Shula was fired after a 6-6 season that ended with three straight losses, including a defeat by state rival Auburn.

Athletic director Mal Moore said Monday that defensive coordinator Joe Kines would serve as interim head coach. The firing was first reported by The Tuscaloosa News on its Web site.

Alabama opened its season with a 25-17 victory over Hawaii.

Shula, a former Alabama quarterback, led the Crimson Tide to a 10-2 season last year and a Cotton Bowl victory. But his teams were winless in four tries against Auburn. The Tigers beat the Crimson Tide 22-15 on Nov. 18.

Shula said he was "deeply disappointed" by Moore's decision.

"From my very first day on this job, I had a single mission: To return the Crimson Tide to its place among the elite programs in college football," he said in a statement. "Although I maintain that we were moving steadily in that direction, I regret sincerely that I will not be given the opportunity to finish the job I was hired to do."

Shula's firing 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 Paul "Bear" Bryant's last season in 1982. Bryant had directed the Alabama program for 25 years.

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 — specifically a night of drinking at a strip club in Pensacola, Fla. Price got the job after Dennis Franchione bolted for Texas A&M.

"Mike and his staff took over our program during a trying period four years ago, and in a number of ways Mike has been an excellent representative of our program," Moore said in a statement. "He personally has displayed impeccable character."

Moore praised Shula for providing "stability for our program through four years of NCAA probation" that end Feb. 1, 2007.

"However, we did not make progress on the field this season and have not been able to maintain the positive momentum necessary to return Alabama football to a place among college football's elite programs," Moore said.

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 annually. The deal extended his contract two years through early 2012, with a raise of $650,000 plus a $200,000 signing bonus.

The 41-year-old Shula had a 26-23 record in four seasons with the Crimson Tide.

But he is the only Tide coach to lose four consecutive games to Auburn. He came under considerable fire earlier this month 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.