One can only imagine the anger and frustration Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban is feeling at this moment. Though the coach will never show it publicly, I would imagine there are some people in that locker room that wish they didn't know the coach right now.
A short few months back, Saban had to find a way to put aside the distraction of the "textbook scandal" that landed Alabama on probation once again. This was surely an operation that was taking place long before his arrival and he likely had little to no knowledge of the extent of it.
Nevertheless, there's Nick Saban, holding the baton and dealing with the issues. Like a true professional, he accepts his lashing and moves on to prepare his football team for a successful 2009 campaign.
Not long ago, another set of rumors popped up, this time about a "fishing trip" involving two of Alabama's star freshmen. WR Julio Jones and RB Mark Ingram were rumored to have taken this trip with an Alabama "booster", though for quite some time, very few facts surfaced.
In recent days, the identity of the man who accompanied the players on the trip has become known. A 56 year old Athens, Alabama resident named Curtis Anderson has been identified as the culprit.
Anderson is a local businessman who owns Eagle Wholesale Supply in Athens and according to the Birmingham News, "paid for a chartered spring fishing trip at Gulf Shores". Depending on the finding, if he in fact did commit this act, it could be the proverbial "nail in the coffin" for Alabama since they are on probation.
Alabama took initiative and conducted their own investigation and at this time, had this comment on Mr. Anderson through their assistant to the President and Vice President.
"The university is aware of Mr. Anderson and has taken appropriate steps," Deborah Lane said. "Mr. Anderson is not affiliated with UA. He is not a UA booster, fan or alumnus and is not a UA season ticket holder. In fact, Mr. Anderson told us that all of his family are fans of another SEC school."
Though one would think that would bode well for Alabama, there are still some severe inconsistencies in Mr. Anderson's story, along with a few key omissions.
When asked where he met the players, he's constantly declined to name where and how. He'll only say, "It has nothing to do with anything, that's been a long time ago."
Some reports on the story indicated the trip originated from a marina where Jones worked called "Zeke's Landing", in Gulf Shores. Mr. Anderson, however, said that wasn't true.
"I've never been out fishing from Zeke's Landing -- don't go to Zeke's," Anderson said. "I haven't been there in 15 years. That's not the case. That's what people have said, but that's a lie. The only reason I'll talk to anybody is because I'm sick and tired of lies."
At first read, one has to wonder. Which is right? That you've never been there, or you haven't been there in 15 years?
Mr. Anderson also told the Birmingham News that he didn't know who either player was before meeting them.
"When I was told, 'This is Julio Jones,' I said, 'Whoopty-do,'" Anderson told the Birmingham paper. "I had no idea who Julio Jones was. I've got my right hand on this Bible. I swear ... I had no idea who Julio Jones and Mark Ingram were when I met them and they became friends of mine. I didn't know for weeks and months."
So where are we? The rumor that the trip was paid for by an Alabama booster is certainly in doubt, as Bama has confirmed he's not a donor or season ticket holder. The school has also stated he's not a fan, which could be key since the NCAA has basically identified any fan as a "booster", regardless of whether they contribute or not.
Some of the things I, and others, wonder about and probably will have to be answered are things like:
Where did Mr. Anderson meet the players, and who made the introduction? Was that person an Alabama "booster"?
How often do 56 year old men who can afford to charter fishing trips, just so happen to become "friends" with 18 year olds who just so happen to be freshman sensations for a major college football team? Friends? What do 56 year olds talk to 18 year olds about?
Did Julio Jones and Mark Ingram not realize it was inappropriate to accept a free fishing trip from a 56 year business owner? Every student athlete is briefed on these rules when they get to school.
All of those questions, and probably more, will have to be answered. There is nothing good about Alabama being in big trouble for the SEC or NCAA, so one would hope there is a legitimate reason for all of this mess.
The one thing in all this I think I know for sure is, I wouldn't want to be Jones or Ingram, having to face Nick Saban about this matter. Saban can't be happy that he's having to deal with yet another problem he most likely had no knowledge of prior to it happening and could affect his program.
Saban must be reiterating to these young players how angry and let down they all were when Andre Smith contacted an agent, rendering himself ineligible for the Sugar Bowl and possibly causing the Tide a distraction that cost them that game.
Especially after you arrive on campus, you have to be smarter than this. With all that's gone on over the past 15 years, the kids must know that there are a lot of eyes on Alabama and I'm certain Nick Saban reminds them of that every day.
Now that the information has been passed on and Alabama has sent a Compliance officer to the NCAA according to reports, all Saban, Jones and Ingram can do is wait.
For Jones and Ingram's sake, Saban better get good news. There are several coaches who I'd especially not like to "face the fire" with, and he's one of them.
There are certainly more facts and a ruling that has to come down and we don't know those yet, but I'm certain that Saban has already reminded Julio and Mark who's world they are living in, and they'd be better served to keep that on the front burner, and not the back.
Writer's note: Quotes and information from this article were taken from The Birmingham News, the Decatur Daily and general media statements and reports.
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