Warbling a few bars of “I dreamed I was there in football heaven,” Washington State University football coach Mike Price accepted the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award in ceremonies here Friday - humbled by the company he found himself in and happy to be included “for all the right reasons.”
Close to 800 people - including the entire 1997 Cougars team - turned out for a banquet at the Coeur d’Alene Resort to honor Price, who became the 22nd recipient of the award named for the late Hall of Fame coach from Georgia Tech.
“I’m very proud and appreciative to receive this honor - this is a great thing you’re doing,” Price told representatives of the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation who made the trip from Atlanta to Coeur d’Alene for a press conference and the banquet. “I look at the names on this list and it’s hard to see my name there and believe that it’s true.”
Tom Osborne, Bo Schembechler, LaVell Edwards, Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno and Eddie Robinson are all among the previous recipients of the award which comes “in recognition of a higher and more noble aspect of college coaching … a style that emphasizes something more than winning the game.”
Kim King, a former Dodd quarterback and foundation board member, called that “the embodiment of what Bobby Dodd stood for. And what we learned about Mike Price was that he showed the same type of character - that he was a winner on the field with a great football team, but what really impressed us was the care and concern he showed for his players.”
Price led the Cougars to their first Pacific-10 Conference championship and Rose Bowl appearance in 67 years with a 10-2 record, including an unprecedented sweep of all four California schools. It was a record-breaking year in many respects, though the statistic Price claims to be proudest of is that all 26 WSU seniors are on track to graduate.
That, King said, mirrored Dodd’s dedication “to do whatever it took to give his players the chance to get their degrees.”
Price also spoke proudly of his team’s “give back program,” in which all players are compelled to go back to their elementary schools to speak to younger students. The Cougars visit upwards of 60 schools annually in Spokane and made daily appearances at Los Angeles-area schools, clubs and community centers leading up to the Rose Bowl.
“It’s not something we did for the press or publicity,” he said. “It was to remind our guys that while we were living a great moment, there’s more to it than that.
“It’s one of the reasons after our games, we sing the fight song to the students - not the fans or alumni, but the students - to remind them that we’re just like they are. We’re not their professional football team. So, it’s refreshing to get this type of honor, to be represented with these other great names not just for the won-lost record, but for all the right reasons.”
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