Washington State football coach Mike Price, weakened by the flu, spent Wednesday resting in his Santa Monica hotel room, too sick to attend the final press conference before this afternoon’s Rose Bowl.
Price will not miss the game, assistant head coach Larry Lewis told reporters.
“He is sick and he figured that if we’re only going to go every 67 years, he was going to get well and make sure he made this one,” said Lewis, taking Price’s spot behind the microphone at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. “He is in bed right now and working on making sure he’s feeling great for the game.”
Price may have contracted the illness from redshirt quarterback Billy Graffis earlier this week. According to Lewis, Price attended to Graffis before the player’s father arrived.
“I think that’s where he got it,” Lewis said.
Price plays a critical role in WSU’s offense. He calls plays after receiving input from assistants John McDonell and Mike Levenseller, who watch from the press box.
Price started feeling ill Tuesday and was running a fever, Lewis said.
“It’s something that has affected a couple kids,” Lewis said. “Because of that, we’ve really kept away from the hot meeting rooms and made sure the kids got out in fresh air and are really taking care of themselves by sleep and proper diet.”
Price offered contract; talks on hold
Mike Price led Washington State to its first Rose Bowl in 67 years. Now the coach and school are set to talk about a new contract after the Rose Bowl.
Price is the lowest-paid coach in the Pac-10 with a base salary of $112,000, and athletic director Rick Dickson has said repeatedly that his contract will be renegotiated.
Dickson has offered Price a contract, but talks are on hold so Price can concentrate on preparing for Michigan.
“It’s healthy and a reflection of what he has earned,” Dickson said, although he refused to divulge details of the offer. “For the Washington State program it’s probably above and beyond.
“He has merited that type of package in security and compensation,” Dickson said.
Price has led No. 8 Washington State (10-1) to its highest ranking and its first Rose Bowl in 67 years.
Because Price was bed-ridden with the flu Wednesday, he was not available for comment.
Price has two years remaining on his existing contract, and earns well over $200,000 per year when outside income is included.
‘We’re (probably not) No. 1!’
If Washington State manages to knock off Michigan, the Cougars still probably won’t have much of a shot at the national title, although, if No. 2 Nebraska loses to No. 3 Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, WSU’s 11-1 record will be as good as anybody else’s.
Cougars quarterback Ryan Leaf has figured out the scenario for his team to vault from eighth to first in the final poll.
“If we beat Michigan and Nebraska wins (to remain undefeated), Nebraska is the national champion, and that’s OK,” Leaf said. “But if we win and Nebraska loses, then we deserve the national championship as much as anyone else.
“If both we and Tennessee win, then we should be co-champions. That would be fair.”
Eyes off the prize
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said the Wolverines know the national title is at stake in today’s game, but they weren’t dwelling on that.
“We talked about that early,” Carr said in his final news conference prior to the game, with the national championship trophy on a table behind him.
“It’s really a side issue,” Carr said. “The most important issue for us is winning this game.
“To get that prize (title), we have to go through Washington State,” Carr said.
Carr doesn’t apologize for not being as colorful as his Washington State counterpart, Price.
“I realize I’m dull and boring and not quotable. I learned that from Bo,” said Carr, who actually has a sharp - if quiet - sense of humor. He was referring to his former boss at Michigan, Bo Schembechler.