Just how long would the offseason have to wait before dealing the college football world a juicy scandal to dig into?
Not even a full two weeks.
According to Clay Travis of OutKickTheCoverage.com, Tom Al-Betar—the disassociated Alabama booster who ran into trouble in 2011 after photos surfaced of players signing a large amount of items in his T-Town Menswear suit store—is at it again.
This time, he's dropped the suit front and is running a memorabilia shop called T-Town Gallery in University Mall in Tuscaloosa.
So what is he selling?
All the usual items that fans gobble up, plus several items that could land Alabama and/or some current players in hot water. Game-used and signed gloves, wristbands, jerseys, cleats from several Crimson Tide players, including current wide receivers Amari Cooper and Christion Jones, and running backs T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake.
If a player permits the use of his name to promote the sale of a commercial product—even inadvertently, which is what cost Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel a half of football versus Rice—that would be a violation of NCAA bylaw 188.8.131.52 and/or 184.108.40.206.
Several of those game-used items have since been taken down from the store's website, according to Travis.
So here we are with another memorabilia scandal to deal with, although this one should be more concerning than the one that Manziel dealt with last summer.
What sets this apart from Manziel's case is that players having plausible deniability and "not knowing" the items were going to be sold isn't the only factor at play.
The terms of Al-Betar's disassociation letter clearly state that he shouldn't obtain any merchandise from student-athletes (via: OutKickTheCoverage.com):
You should refrain from obtaining any items of memorabilia from our student-athletes, including used equipment and apparel.
In addition to that, it specifically states that any contact or attempted contact outside of his store would be considered a direct violation of his three-year disassociation, and that he is prohibited from sideline access on campus.
Could he skirt the merchandise rules by getting others to acquire the merchandise?
Sure. But this is a store owner in the Tuscaloosa mall who is clearly known to players, as former offensive lineman Kellen Williams pointed out to Travis on Twitter.
@ClayTravisBGID don't know why you're getting so much backlash for a spot on report..as a former player I never stepped foot in that place— Kellen Williams (@BigBandz63) January 17, 2014
@kevinlogan45 I appreciate that buddy..just agreeing with clay about what he said about Albetar...guy is baddd news— Kellen Williams (@BigBandz63) January 17, 2014
If autographed game-used cleats and wristbands are showing up down the street for sale, it's a stretch to think that the players and university wouldn't know about it.
Alabama athletics director Bill Battle responded to the story late Thursday night, according to Michael Casagrande of AL.com.
We are aware of the story produced today. As part of our ongoing compliance efforts, our compliance department looks into everything that warrants concern. That effort is diligent and all-encompassing, and requires constant communication and education regarding all potential issues.
Al-Betar denied that current players knew their items were being sold in the store to Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com.
Alabama fans should be very concerned about this.
Not only does Al-Betar appear to be back at it, he's lost the suit store front and is clearly known to current players, some of whom have game-worn items being sold.
All right next door to the university itself—which already disassociated itself from Al-Betar.
Basically, this just raised a bunch of red flags at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. Whether Al-Betar has been doing this in secret or the school has been willfully ignorant, it's clear that the terms of Al-Betar's disassociation have been violated.
The last thing any program wants is the NCAA sniffing around, and Al-Betar's actions are the enforcement equivalent of sending a hand-written invitation to Indianapolis, complete with a plane ticket and a ride to the airport.