Ex-Alabama coach suing SI

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 22, 2003

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Former Alabama football coach Mike Price sued Time Inc. for $20 million Friday, contending he was defamed by a Sports Illustrated article about the strip club visit that led to his firing.

The suit seeks $10 million in compensation, the value of the seven-year deal Price had with Alabama, which fired him after his night of drunken carousing in Pensacola, Fla., in April.

The suit, filed in state court, seeks another $10 million in punitive damages from Time, which publishes Sports Illustrated.

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Alabama president Robert Witt fired Price on May 3, about five days before the magazine was released for sale. Price is appealing his dismissal.

The lawsuit cited seven parts of the article as being inaccurate, including its report that Price had sex with two women in his hotel room after a visit to Arety's Angels strip club and used the phrase, ''It's rolling, bab.''

during what the story called ''aggressive sex.''

Price, 57, also denied the story's contentions that he went to the club immediately upon arriving in Pensacola; that he touched a dancer while in a semiprivate area of the club; and that he fondled a waitress.

The suit also said it was untrue that a woman left Price's hotel room the next morning, before Price went to the golf tournament; that he bought drinks for female students in a Tuscaloosa bar and propositioned them; and that Alabama athletic director Mal Moore chastised him twice for ''generally serving as the life of the party in too many bars.''

Price attorney Stephen Heninger said he sent Sports Illustrated a letter on May 22 demanding a retraction, but the magazine refused.

Price, who is married, said he went to the topless club during a night of bar hopping in Pensacola. He said he got so drunk a woman had to ride back to the hotel with him in a cab and help him to his room.

Price said he fell asleep and denied any sex was involved. He said the hotel later made him pay for $1,000 in room service charges a woman placed on his room tab the next morning.

Alabama hired Price from Washington State last year after Dennis Franchione left for Texas A&M. Former Alabama quarterback Mike Shula was hired to replace Price, who never coached a regular season game at Alabama.