UTEP Head Football Coach Mike Price announced Monday he will be retiring after Saturday's home game - the final game of the 2012 season.
Price, 66, in the final year of his contract, made the announcement during his weekly news conference. He built up the suspense by first talking about UTEP's win over Southern Miss. this past weekend.
"Last night I talked to our coaches about keeping the worst kept secret in the Durham Center, that Rice would be my last game as your head coach. I wanted to tell [the coaches] face to face and make it as personal as possible. I told the team this morning face to face," Price said at the news conference. "I want to keep the emphasis on Rice, and I want to keep the emphasis this week on our seniors. I am retiring from the game that I have loved and respected my whole life ... 44 years, I guess. That's all I've wanted to be. I know some of you wanted to be track stars or soccer stars. All I've ever wanted to be is a football coach. It has been a great life. Talk about being lucky. Every day has been fun. I have respected the game. I wish I could coach here forever. But that doesn't happen. That's the reality of life. I'm sure proud to go out with this group of players. They are great kids, great men and lots of fun to be around. I'm just so proud of them. They have been so good to coach. That has made this year a lot better. The won-lost record isn't what we wanted it to be."
His wife, Joyce, joined him at the podium during part of the news conference and he thanked her for being with him for 46 years and said they would be spending a lot of time together.
About the football program, he said "I know we are leaving the program solid for the next coach. Every player is eligible."
"Everything you want in a young man is what we have on our team right now. They represent our school. And I mean our school. We didn't all go to school at UTEP, but whether you went here or not, we're all Miners," Price said. "We all want the Miners to do well. We want UTEP to be successful. And I intend to support this program and help this city as much as I can in the future. This is mine and Joyce's home now, and we're El Pasoans"
He added that the expectation level of the football team has been raised during his tenure.
“We raised our national recognition,” Price said. “We changed our self-image.”
Price said he would like to see UTEP defensive coordinator get the head coaching job.
"I would be remiss to say that I'm not 100 percent supportive of Andre Patterson to succeed me as the head coach. It is not my decision, but I do want to make that perfectly clear if anybody wants to listen," Price said.
Price began his long list of thank yous by thanking UTEP President Diana Natalicio for taking a chance on hiring him on Dec. 21, 2003.
"I'm very thankful to President Natalicio for giving us this opportunity," Price said. "It has been the chance of a lifetime. I am very appreciative of the loyal support by Director of Athletics Bob Stull. I can't thank him enough for his patience and support. This is my last year of coaching. It is great go out with this group of fine student-athletes and coaches. Although I didn't go to school here, I'm a Miner. Joyce and I are proud to be El Pasoans."
Price, who coached Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf in 14 years at Washington State, was a surprise choice to replace Dennis Franchione at Alabama after the 2002 season. He got in trouble before he was supposed to sign a seven-year, $10 million contract when he admitted he drank heavily and went to a strip club after attending a golf tournament in Florida in the spring of 2003.
Price sued the school for $20 million over his firing, but a judge threw out the lawsuit, noting the fact that Price never signed the contract. He also sued Sports Illustrated over a report that alleged he had sex with two women in his hotel room. That lawsuit was settled.
UTEP hired Price a few months after the Alabama debacle.
Natalicio did not attend the news conference because she is in Brazil. UTEP Executive Vice President Richard Adauto also did not attend the news conference, although he is in town, according to his assistant.
"We can't thank Mike enough for all he has given our university and the El Paso community over the last nine years," Natalicio said in a statement. "Mike's contributions, however, extend far beyond increasing the national awareness and level of competitiveness in our football program. He has been a tremendous ambassador for UTEP and won over the entire city through his kind-heartedness, sincerity and sense of humor. We wish Mike the best as he begins a new chapter of his life."
Stull said at the news conference that he would like to have a head coach hired by Christmas.
"We will never spend $2 million on a new coach, we just won't break the bank," Stull said.
Price has a base salary of $267,800 for this year.
When asked about forming a search committee for a new coach Stull replied, "I am the search committee."
"Mike and Joyce Price have been tremendous assets to UTEP and the El Paso community," Stull said. "Mike has brought a level of national attention and respect to UTEP that only an elite coach could bring. He has certainly raised the bar of expectations for our football program. While Mike's coaching accolades are extensive, his greatest value has come in the warmth and love that he has shown for the people of El Paso. He has consistently gone out of his way to interact with the community through speaking engagements, community service and the like. We have been so fortunate and grateful to call Mike Price our coach for the last nine years."
Price has a 48-60 record in nine seasons at UTEP and a 177-182 overall record in 31 seasons.
His 48 wins at UTEP give him more than any other Miners coach other than Mack Saxon who had 66 wins. Price coached the Miners to three bowl games in his 9 seasons, more than any other UTEP coach.
Price is one of only two coaches to coach the Miners more than seven seasons. Saxon coached the Miners 13 seasons.
After consecutive winning seasons and bowl game appearances his first couple years at, Price and the Miners have suffered through six consecutive losing seasons.