Since Mike Price and Bob Stull are not known for openness with the public/fans, I'm not sure if Price is really coming back as football coach, or not. He says he plans to return.
He's been here seven years, a lo.ooong time for a UTEP football coach. And unless he beats BYU Dec. 18 in the New Mexico Bowl he'll be on a skid of five losing seasons in a row. Nobody before him has ever survived that. And he talks about his grandkids a lot. And he's got picturesque properties on the West Coast and in Idaho. He's got money.
True, Price says he's not planning to retire, and Stull said that would be up to Price. UTEP''s money backers, which doesn't amount to a whole lot of money, seem to like Price. Stull says he's not planning to fire the coach. But when have either been up front? Never.They don't tell fibs, but they have mastered the fine art of weasel wording answers.
Recall when Stull was coach here, he knew nothing, he'd say, about speculation he was leaving (for Stanford or Missouri). Not until right at the Independence Bowl trip to Shreveport, La., did he finally admit he'd agreed to be a Missouri Tiger. I'm not sure he officially announced it, or if somebody saw him wearing a Mizzou jacket and he had no choice. I've always said Stull won't admit today is Thursday until Friday. Only on Friday will he confirm yesterday was Thursday.
Price never goes public with team ongoings. Just one example: Fans were left to believe star running back Donald Buckram would be ready to play in Game 1 this year, then Game 2 ... He was always on a so-called "day-to-day" all the way through 12 games. He saw little action on what must have been a real bad knee. Probably opponent scouts knew more about Buckram's status than did the Miners' fans.
I like Price as UTEP's football coach. He's good in the community. He's one of the biggest winners, percentage wise, in the history of the school. His almost-.500 seasons sure beat the 1-win and 2-win seasons of so many of his UTEP ancestors - going far back to the 1970s.
My only gut feeling now on this is (what do you think?):
If Price beats BYU (UTEP is a 12-point underdog), he'd have a good reason to retire. He'd be going out a winner (7-6) - because he is a winner as a man and a coach.
If he loses, well, THIS was supposed to be his big year. After Dec. 18 he's back in a building mode. He's got four untested quarterbacks for 2011. If he had a lot of confidence in one, as he did four years ago with Trevor Vittatoe, I don't think he'd keep mentioning the possibility of going after a JC quarterback, or even two.
Yes, I know that three supposed Vittatoe clones are no longer here, but that says something, too.
I just don't know why it's to Mike Price's benefit to stay in college coaching as he heads into his upper 60s and he's been National Coach of the Year - and he's got a great family ... and he's been one of those 365-days-a-year college coaches for 29 years now.
Recall 1993-99 coach Charlie Bailey didn't get the hook from UTEP, he got it from his wife.
If next year looked like a winner then I'd say Price would definitely be back, or plan to be back.
Now? You just can't make this call without it being just a guess.