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Price calls SI report an 'absolute lie' news services

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Former Alabama football coach Mike Price said he was "too drunk to really know" what happened at a topless bar in Florida on the night that ultimately led to his firing, The Birmingham News reported Wednesday.

But Price told the News that he did not have sex in his Pensacola, Fla., hotel room that night, and he denied allegations that he bought alcoholic drinks for students in Tuscaloosa bars on other occasions.

Price's attorney, Stephen Heninger, also said Price had never been warned by athletic director Mal Moore about his behavior at Tuscaloosa bars. Moore said Monday he met with Price one-on-one about his conduct once and with the whole coaching staff on another occasion.

Heninger did not immediately return a call Wednesday from The Associated Press. His secretary said he was in court until Friday.

Price was fired as coach Saturday for what university president Robert Witt said was inappropriate behavior in connection with Price's visit to a topless bar in Pensacola on April 16 and a woman's $1,000 room service order billed to his hotel room the next morning.

The News said that Price, with his attorney at his side, vehemently denied a Sports Illustrated article set for release Wednesday that said he had sex with two women in his Pensacola hotel room on the night in question and that he bought drinks and propositioned college students in Tuscaloosa.

Price called the story "an absolute lie."

"We stand by the reporting and the story," SI spokesman Rick McCabe told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Price told the News that after passing out early that morning, he awoke fully clothed with a woman in his hotel room and did not remember having any women in his room the night before.

The newspaper said Jennifer Eaton, who claims to have been in the hotel room that night, supported Price's assertion that there was no sex. Eaton was described as a 30-year-old native of Hartselle, Ala., who used to work at Arety's Angels, the Pensacola topless bar that Price visited April 16.

Eaton said she was one of three women in Price's hotel room that night, but only dancing and "carrying on" took place.

"Please tell Coach Price that I'm so sorry if I was in any way involved in getting him in trouble," she sobbed in a phone interview, the News said.

Eaton said she was visiting the topless bar on the night of April 16 when Price came in. She said she is a huge Crimson Tide fan and was thrilled to meet him.

"He was so compassionate," she said. "He made me feel good. He was a celebrity to me."

Eaton said she accepted an offer to return with him to his hotel to party after leaving the club about midnight.

"He was very respectful," she said. "He was joking around. I think he was just a man wanting some company. I think pretty girls make him feel good. He made me feel good. Is that wrong?"

Eaton said two more women whom she did not know joined the party later.

She said Price told the three women to order breakfast from room service. After he left for his pro-am golf tournament, Eaton said, one of the other women placed a $1,000 order. Worried about the expensive order, Eaton said she left.

Heninger said Price told him "he had so much to drink that he can't really say what happened that night."

According to the SI report, Price went to the club Arety's Angels both before and after the sponsor's dinner for the Emerald Coast Classic Pro-Am, a stop on the PGA Champions tour. Price was entered in the celebrity pro-am.

Witnesses told SI that Price was extremely agressive with the women who worked at the club during both visits.

"I offered him a table dance," Lori (Destiny) Boudreaux, a married mother of two who has worked in strip clubs for 15 years, told SI. "He tipped me $60. Then he asked me to take him to the semi-private dance area. He got a little bad there. We have rules, and touching is not allowed.

"He told me I was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen," Boudreaux continued. "He kept telling me he had a room at the [Crowne Plaza] Hotel, and he wanted me to meet him there late that night. He was definitely persistent. I told him my husband was coming to pick me up after work, which he did, by the way."

Price attended the sponsor's dinner, and then rushed back to the club, witnesses told SI. Price was apparently not shy about interacting with the employees or spending money. During that second visit, according to two witnesses, Price was sitting at the bar kissing and fondling a waitress until a deejay reminded him he had to stop.

"All told he probably spent a couple hundred dollars on drinks and a little more than that on dances," club owner Arety Kapetanis told SI. "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."

According to SI, Price left the club at midnight and went back to his hotel. According to one of the women involved, Price engaged "in some pretty aggressive sex" with two women in the hotel. The source told SI that at one point she and her female companion "started screaming 'Roll Tide!' and he was yelling back, 'It's rolling, baby, it's rolling.' "

The woman declined to tell SI, when asked, if she was paid for the evening.

While Price was on the golf course the following morning, tournament director Phil Garcia told him there was a problem back at the hotel, according to SI. Sources told the magazine that 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. The woman was not allowed to leave, so Price returned to the hotel to settle the tab.

At Saturday's news conference, Alabama president Robert Witt said that Price was warned before that trip about his public behavior.

An Alabama student detailed an incident to SI that led to one of the warnings.

"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 GameDay Condos," the student told SI. "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."

Price led Washington State to consecutive 10-win seasons and a Rose Bowl berth last season. He was to have been Alabama's sixth head coach since Bear Bryant retired after the 1982 season.

Price agreed to a seven-year contract worth $10 million with Alabama but never signed it. The deal had a clause saying he could be fired for any behavior "that brings (the) employee into public disrepute, contempt, scandal, or ridicule or that reflects unfavorably upon the reputation or the high moral or ethical standards of the University."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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 'There Was No Sex'
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