'Bama Coach Was Down, But He Wasn't Out Not Long Ago, Mike Dubose Saw His Job Threatened By Scandal. His Life Is A Whole Lot Better Now.

Posted: December 31, 1999

Flanked by eight of his players, Mike DuBose, the University of Alabama football coach, rubbed red-rimmed eyes as he left a Miami hospital where he had visited sick children this week.

What may have seemed like a publicity event to Orange Bowl organizers had turned into another outpouring of emotion for DuBose, who has shed tears often because of his questionable conduct during a turbulent year.

After lying about an affair with a married athletic-department secretary, barely keeping his job, and seeing his team get off to a shaky start on the field, DuBose has managed an astonishing reversal of fortune.

The Crimson Tide finished 10-2, rose to fifth in the national rankings, and earned a date against eighth-ranked Michigan (9-2) in tomorrow's Orange Bowl. And in a region where football is a passion, that was enough for university administrators to give DuBose a contract extension through January 2004, restoring the two years taken away from him as punishment for the sexual-harassment scandal.

"No question, it has been a difficult year in a lot of ways," said DuBose, 46. "I'm grateful to this coaching staff and the players. Because of the adversity, they came together as one."

In May, DuBose, a defensive lineman on Alabama's 1973 national-title team under Paul "Bear" Bryant, had seemingly secured his future. He had agreed to to a two-year contract extension even as talk of his affair filled Internet chat rooms and radio call-in shows across Alabama.

DuBose at first denied what he called the "very serious and unfounded rumors and innuendoes."

The issue appeared dead, but then two key players, dismayed by his conduct, announced over the summer that they would be leaving the university. And assistant coaches, feeling betrayed, reportedly lashed out at DuBose in a private meeting.

The next morning, on Aug. 5, with his wife, Polly, at his side, DuBose came clean.

"This past May, I addressed a matter related to my personal life," he said tearfully. "My statement at that time misled you, and I am truly sorry. I made a mistake, I made the situation worse with my response, and in doing so, I hurt others and I have embarrassed the university."

The school reached a $350,000 settlement with the secretary, who left her job. Athletic director Bob Bockrath, a staunch supporter of DuBose, crafted the deal in which the coach would have two years shaved off his contract, see his $150,000 annual base salary frozen, and see himself docked $12,000 per month for 30 months to repay the university.

To many fans, DuBose's apology and punishment weren't enough, and to them, the school's allowing DuBose to retain his position seemed hypocritical. In the spring of 1992, Wimp Sanderson, then Alabama's men's basketball coach, had been forced to resign because of an alleged affair with his secretary.

On the field this season, the Tide won their first two games but then lost in an upset to Louisiana Tech, 29-28, a defeat that knocked them out of the top 25. Three days later, Bockrath, who had absorbed criticism from the university's board of trustees for retaining DuBose, submitted his resignation.

Then the team rallied behind DuBose.

Senior tailback Shaun Alexander, the school's all-time leading rusher, sat down with some of his younger teammates.

"I asked them," he said, " 'What's the worst thing that can happen to your program? Your head coach gets found out for whatever. After that was cleared up and everybody got it off their chests, everybody became more focused and just started playing football again."

Two weeks later, the Tide traveled to Gainesville and ended Florida's 30-game home winning streak with a 40-39 overtime victory. A 28-17 win at Auburn followed, along with another victory over Florida, one that gave the Tide their first Southeastern Conference championship since 1992.

That was enough to win SEC coach of the year honors for DuBose, and it was enough for Mal Moore, Alabama's new athletic director, to reward DuBose with the new deal.

"I made some huge mistakes and asked for forgiveness and have been forgiven," DuBose said. "I know God has forgiven me, and I hope most people have."

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