By Terry Pellman
That's the easiest way to describe the feelings of football fans around the southeast about the recent penalties announced from the NCAA.
It was easy to find many Alabama fans voicing a sigh of relief that there were no scholarship losses. But, that wasn't a situation where worry was warranted.
As late as last week word from those around the UA athletic department remained on the same tune it had been since their meeting with the Committee on Infractions in February.
"At worst, we are thinking a couple of years probation (two or three) and possibly the loss of a few scholarships."
On one end the news was expected. The Alabama Athletic Department was given a three-year probation extension.
On the other end, the news was better than some expected—no loss of any scholarships for the football program. But, that doesn't mean that the staff at UA took the announcement in stride.
Anyone who thought (or thinks) that the University officials breathed a deep sigh of relief with the word of no scholarship losses needs to pause—think again.
With a plethora of adjectives at my disposal, I'm going with a little southern vernacular to describe their reactions..
They ain't too happy.
By no means are they insinuating that some of the charges weren't true. But, both were adamant in pointing out three things they felt warranted more attention than it was given.
- There wasn't a single instance of any player profiting from the textbook distribution process monetarily.
- The action of giving books to friends didn't give any players a competitive edge against their opponents.
- Not one coach, staff member, or administrative employee was involved in the indiscretions.
UA President Dr. Witt noted:
"The penalties imposed affect the past. They do not impact our future. They in no way affect the ability of our football team to compete fully, without competitive disadvantage."
But, was also quick to point out,
“We’re disappointed with the severity of the penalties."
In the press conference both officials noted they were going to "seriously consider the appeal process." What they didn't mention were members of the University's legal team have been working on the appeal process for quite sometime now.
With a few "i's" to dot and a few "t's" to cross on the appeal itself, expect for UA to file within the next two weeks.
From what I've been told, the two areas contained in the appeal are:
- Vacating wins—punishing players for something they weren't involved with and didn't know anything about. That appeal is much like the appeal Oklahoma made a few years ago when it was discovered they had football players being paid for hours not worked.
- The three-year probation period—based on other cases, and in those cases members of schools involved to a great degree, other schools weren't assigned that length of a probationary penalty.
Statements from Dr. Witt and Coach Moore
University of Alabama President Dr. Robert Witt:
“This afternoon the NCAA announced penalties imposed on the University of Alabama because of violation of NCAA policies regarding the distribution of textbooks to student-athletes.
In 2007, when we learned of this problem, we immediately reported it to the SEC and to the NCAA. We rapidly and thoroughly investigated the problem in cooperation with both the SEC and NCAA and reported our findings to both organizations.
In our report we acknowledged the violations and accepted full responsibility. The University of Alabama failed to monitor its textbook distribution program. As a result, a small number of athletes purposefully took advantage of the program to obtain textbooks for their friends— textbooks that had to be returned or paid for at the end of the semester.
It’s important to note that no coach or staff member was involved in the violation. No sport gained a competitive advantage and not one athlete pocketed one dollar.
It’s also important to note that the penalties imposed affect the past. They do not impact our future. They in no way affect the ability of our football team to compete fully, without competitive disadvantage.
We are disappointed in the severity of the penalties. We regret that a large number of players and coaches are being penalized for something they were not involved in.
The University of Alabama is committed to doing things the right way—to being in full compliance with all SEC and NCAA polices—and steps have been taken to ensure that in the future we will be.”
University of Alabama Director of Athletics Mal Moore:
“Upon discovery of this situation in 2007, we conducted an exhaustive review and we have corrected and strengthened our textbook monitoring process. We have clearly demonstrated our commitment to doing things the right way.
Throughout this process, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with the SEC and the NCAA enforcement staff. We are disappointed in the ruling by the NCAA Committee on Infractions.
This case involves a failure in an isolated area of the program. There is neither evidence, nor allegations, of other NCAA violations.
No head coaches or assistant coaches of any sport had any knowledge or involvement. No players gained financially or otherwise.
There was absolutely no competitive advantage gained. All of the books were returned.
We will carefully consider our options regarding an appeal, as we feel that we owe that to our current and former student-athletes and to our alumni and fans. It is important that our fans and supporters understand this:
The ruling does not hinder our efforts going forward, in recruiting or in competition, but the ruling is a clear reminder that we must maintain strict compliance with all NCAA regulations.”