Mike Price wanted to get one thing straight before returning to Alabama: Don't judge him by the colors of his clothes. The Texas-El Paso —...

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Mike Price wanted to get one thing straight before returning to Alabama: Don’t judge him by the colors of his clothes.

The Texas-El Paso — and briefly University of Alabama — coach hasn’t turned against the Crimson Tide and started pulling for Auburn.

“When we come back, I’m going to be wearing dark navy blue and orange representing UTEP,” Price said in a phone interview.

Those also are Auburn’s colors, but Price said, “I’m an Alabama fan. I’m not an Auburn fan. Coming back, I’d rather be wearing crimson.”

Price, a former Washington State coach, will bring UTEP (8-3) to Mobile, Ala., today to prepare for the GMAC Bowl against Toledo (8-3) on Wednesday. He is returning to a state where he sparked excitement and controversy.

Price didn’t speak with bitterness or ill will toward Alabama despite his firing in May 2003 — before coaching a game for the Tide — after a night of drinking and partying at a strip club in Florida.

He expresses nothing but praise for the “great job” last-minute replacement Mike Shula is doing at Alabama. Several of Price’s hires remain assistants on Shula’s staff, and he brought in some of the players in his lone recruiting class.

Price said he doesn’t expect a negative reception from Alabama fans during his stay in Mobile, several hours south of Tuscaloosa.

“I would be shocked if it was anything but positive,” he said. “No one has said one negative thing to me about what happened from the state of Alabama. Not one. I don’t know why that would have changed.

“When it happened, they might have been on talk shows. I don’t listen to talk shows. But to my face, my friends and people who lived in my neighborhood in Tuscaloosa were very supportive and very nice to me the whole time.”

Price has achieved some vindication on and off the field since the embarrassing episode in 2003. He settled a suit against Time Inc. over a Sports Illustrated story detailing his actions at the club in Pensacola, Fla.

Price has publicly acknowledged being intoxicated, but denied allegations of sex with two women in his hotel room that the magazine reported.

UTEP quarterback Jordan Palmer said Price has energized El Paso. “They really love him down here,” Palmer said. “It wasn’t like there was a whole lot going on here before he came to town.”

Miners linebacker Jeremy Jones said he doesn’t think the 59-year-old Price should be judged based on one past incident, calling him “a Hall of Fame coach.”


• Boise State coach Dan Hawkins said he will go to Colorado to finalize negotiations to become the Buffaloes’ new coach. The CU board of regents is scheduled to meet today to approve Hawkins’ contract.

• San Diego coach Jim Harbaugh pleaded innocent to a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence.

The former NFL quarterback was stopped early Oct. 30 in Encinitas, Calif., after allegedly running a stop sign.

• Linfield quarterback Brett Elliott has been named the recipient of the Gagliardi Trophy for the nation’s top NCAA Division III player.

• Former Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill, 43, was hired as Buffalo’s coach, taking over a program that has not had a winning season at the Division I-A level.

• The University of Central Florida is set to build a $51 million, 45,000-seat stadium for its team. The Golden Knights play at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando.