Shula makes debut
By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
July 31, 2003
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. With a state trooper at his side, Mike Shula walked into the lobby of The Wynfrey Hotel and out of the midmorning rain on Wednesday.
The new head football coach for the storied Alabama program, and a former Crimson Tide quarterback himself, was flocked by about two dozen fans and he penned an autograph on two footballs before making it into the front door.
By the time the 37-year-old coach reached the podium to address a room full for the second day of the Southeastern Conference Football Media Days, the Tide coach was understandably a little nervous.
The third head coach in nine months at Alabama went into a detailed list of the different names he thinks will be on the field for the Tide this season.
But after rattling off an index of players that will line up on offense, defense and special teams, Shula admitted that learning his players' names was just the tip of the iceberg.
Shula's players recognize the daunting challenge facing him leading up to the season opener with South Florida on Aug. 30. The Tide opens up preseason practice next week, hampered by NCAA sanctions and painful memories of one coach who left for another job (Dennis Franchione) without saying goodbye and another who was fired for alleged off-the-field misdeeds without coaching a game (Mike Price).
Shula's decision to leave his job as an offensive assistant with the Miami Dolphins and return to his alma mater forged an instant bond with players.
Shula said the players have already impressed him by their dedication to the program and ability to handle everything that has happened since the end of last season's 10-3 run.
Tailback Shaud Williams, a Texas Tech transfer on his fifth head coach, said the veterans have tried to make the transition easier over the summer for their new coach.
But the new coach and his staff have more work than just adjusting to each other and a new team.
Alabama is probably in for some hard times because of NCAA sanctions and has been dealt body blows with the defection of Franchione and dismissal of Price.
The program is serving the final year of a two-year
bowl ban this season.