"He wasn't here long when a buddy of mine, who was here with his wife celebrating their anniversary, came over and said, 'Do you know who that is?' " said club manager Gary Hodge. "These folks were [ University of Florida] Gators and huge football fans, so they knew it was the new Alabama coach. I welcomed [Price] to the club." Before long, Hodge said, Price was buying the couple a congratulatory drink, and several people around him started calling Price "Coach."
Later, according to two witnesses, Price was sitting at the bar kissing and fondling a waitress until a reminder from the deejay prompted him to stop. Then Price moved to a table where he purchased $30 drinks for several dancers. "All told he probably spent a couple hundred dollars on drinks and a little more than that on dances," Kapetanis said. "Then there were the tips, and I'm told he tipped well. We're used to local celebrities coming around, but not someone quite like him."
At about midnight Price headed back to the hotel. He eventually met up with two women, both of whom he had earlier propositioned for sex, according to one of the women, who agreed to speak to SI about the hotel-room liaison on the condition that her name not be used. The woman, who declined comment when asked if she was paid for the evening, said that the threesome engaged "in some pretty aggressive sex." She said that at one point she and her female companion decided to add a little levity to the activity: "We started screaming 'Roll Tide!' and he was yelling back, 'It's rolling, baby, it's rolling.' " (Reached on his cellphone on Sunday, Price said that he visited Arety's only once on April 16—after the sponsors' dinner—and denied having sex with two women in his hotel room or even inviting anyone to the room.)
The next morning, according to the woman interviewed by SI, she got up early and left the hotel before Price departed for his eight o'clock tee time. On the course he seemed neither worried nor distracted, playing partner Larry Wilkin, a Tuscaloosa businessman, told reporters last week. Wilkin said Price received a couple of calls on his cellphone while on the course, including one from his wife, Joyce. But after Price's round was complete, tournament director Phil Garcia alerted him to a problem back at the hotel. Sources said Garcia told Price that a woman in his room had ordered nearly $1,000 worth of food from room service—"At least one of everything on the menu, all in to-go boxes," one hotel employee told SI—and that the hotel had refused to let her leave with the food because it was Price's credit card that was to be charged. Price left the course shortly thereafter, went back to the hotel and settled the tab.
By the time the SEC rumor mill began to grind, Price's hopes of becoming "the second greatest coach in Alabama history," as he put it at the time of his hiring, were starting to fade. According to a source close to the athletic department, Price had already been chastised twice by athletic director Mai Moore for spending time buying drinks for students and "generally serving as the life of the party in too many bars."
In fact, two Alabama students spoke to SI on Monday about an incident that apparently led to one of Moore's conversations with Price. According to one of the students, a few weeks after Price was hired, the coach went to Buffalo's American Grille near campus and, after four hours of drinking, propositioned some female students. "I heard him tell several girls who he was buying drinks for that his wife was still back in Washington and he wanted them to come to his room at the Game-Day Condos," one of the student sources said. "One of the girls lives at GameDay, and when we went by there at 2:30 a.m., he was stumbling around and told us he had forgotten the entry code [he needed] to get up in the elevator. One girl offered to help, and he tried to talk her into coming to his condo. Everyone was kind of shocked." Neither Price nor Moore could be reached for comment on Monday.
As the story of Price's night in Pensacola became big news in Alabama, university president Robert Witt, just three months on the job, left Price twisting in the wind. The coach acknowledged "mistakes" but appeared confident that he wouldn't lose his job.
Witt decided otherwise. In announcing Price's dismissal last Saturday, he said that the coach had failed to live his "personal and professional life in a manner consistent with university policies."
It was the latest setback for a storied program that has won seven national titles but has been in turmoil since the mid-1990s. The Tide is on NCAA probation and ineligible for a bowl game next season because of rules violations under coach Mike DuBose, who was forced out in 2000 during a 3-8 season in which he admitted to having lied about an affair with his secretary. Dennis Franchione bailed out after last season to take the job at Texas A&M. Price's successor—former Crimson Tide quarterback Mike Shula, a Miami Dolphins assistant, was the leading candidate as of Monday—will be Alabama's fourth coach in four years.
After his fate had been sealed on Saturday, Price told reporters that while he was sorry, he didn't deserve dismissal. "I don't think the punishment meets the crime," said the coach, whose sons Eric, 36, and Aaron, 32, are expected to step down as Crimson Tide assistants. "I think President Witt is making a mistake. He's not breaking the law, but he's making an error in judgment."