College Football 2011: Is Alabama Ready to Be Allowed Off NCAA Probation?

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College Football 2011: Is Alabama Ready to Be Allowed Off NCAA Probation?
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On or about June 10, 2012, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa is scheduled to clear its last round of NCAA imposed probation. This is the latest round of action by the NCAA that began almost two decades ago.

For the 1995/96 and 1996/97 seasons, Alabama found themselves on probation and other sanctions. The program was sited for a lack of institutional control. This prevented the operation of the athletic program within the rules and guidelines of the NCAA.

In February of 1999, the Alabama Athletic department found themselves once again before the NCAA Infractions Committee due to a coach on the staff paying for a basketball player. Following is an excerpt of the official NCAA public statement.

“The assistant men's basketball coach attempted to obtain money from representatives of the university's athletics interests following the oral commitment of a prospective student-athlete, who at the time was a junior in high school. 

A member of the men's basketball staff violated NCAA legislation limiting the number of weekly telephone calls to prospective student athletes. The assistant men's basketball coach involved in this case violated the NCAA standards of ethical conduct.”

In 2002, the University of Alabama Athletics Department found themselves back before the NCAA Infractions Committee on charges stemming al the way back to 1995.

It appears that representatives of the University of Alabama were actually breaking rules at the very time the University was appearing before the committee on another case.

Following is an excerpt from the official NCAA public news release of the 2002 case.

“In August 1995, during a home high-school football game in which prospect 1 competed, athletics representative C told the father of prospect 1 that athletics representative B knew someone who could "help" his son.

Athletics representative B then spoke to prospect 1's father at the game and identified himself as an intermediary for someone who would provide $20,000 in cash if prospect 1 enrolled at the university. 

The next day athletics representative B told prospect 1's father that athletics representative A would provide the cash.  Approximately one week later, representative B visited prospect 1 at his home and asked the prospect if there was anything he wanted, to which prospect 1 responded he wanted a truck. 

Athletics representative B told the young man he would provide $20,000 cash but not a truck so as to avoid creating a paper trail.”

Between 1995 and 1998, there were several other major and minor violations of NCAA rules that were disclosed, but in 1999 a more troubling and persistent theme reoccurred. Following is an excerpt of the official NCAA public news release:

“From June through August 1999, athletics representative D provided a 1994 SUV from an automobile dealership in Columbus, Georgia, at no cost to a football student-athlete (henceforth “student-athlete 1”). The young man possessed the vehicle until he enrolled at another NCAA member institution in August 1999.”

There is more evidence of this particular theme at the time. Following is another excerpt from the official NCAA news release of the 2002 case.

“During the 1998-99 academic year, athletics representative C provided four $100 cash payments to student-athlete 1.  Specifically: 

1. On the morning of a home football contest in 1998, athletics representative C met in his room at a Tuscaloosa hotel with student-athlete 1 and gave him a $100 bill. 

2. On  three other occasions during the 1998-99 academic year, athletics representative C met in an apartment with student-athlete 1 and each time gave him a $100 bill.”

There were also more indications of a program out of control. Following is another excerpt from the official NCAA news release of the 2002 case.

“On several occasions during the 1997-98 and 1998-99 academic years, during the official paid visits to the university's campus of several prospective student athletes, the prospects and their student hosts were entertained by female strippers at parties held at an apartment building on the university's campus.”

All of the excerpts from the 2002 case were directly quoted from NCAA Report No. 193  University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa Sept. 17, 2002.

The 2002 case resulted in a five year probation period beginning Feb. 1, 2002, and ending Jan. 31, 2007.

Before the probation from the 2002 case ended, there was already another major infractions case discovered within the University of Alabama Athletics Program. Following is an excerpt from the official NCAA public release denying appeal in 2009.

“The violations in this case involve three of the factors identified as relevant to imposition of a penalty in a major case in which records are vacated:

1) there were a large number of violations  – the violations were committed by approximately 200 student-athletes in 16 separate sports and the violations in some instances were serious and involved amounts in the thousands of dollars;

2) at least 22 of the student-athletes committed willful and intentional violations”

Following is an excerpt from the NCAA UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA, TUSCALOOSA PUBLIC INFRACTIONS REPORT JUNE 11, 2009.

Can Alabama be trusted to follow NCAA rules and guidelines if allowed off of NCAA probation?

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“Although the committee commends the institution for self-discovering, investigating and reporting the textbook violations, it remains troubled, nonetheless, by the  scope of the violations in this instance and by the institution's recent history of infractions cases. 

In fact, not only is the University of Alabama currently a "repeat violator," because of the 2002 case, it was  also in a  "repeat violator" status when that case was adjudicated and when a 1999 case was decided. 

The committee  addressed this issue in its February 1, 2002, decision in the previous Alabama case (Infractions Report No. 193): of foremost concern to the committee is that this is the second time in two years that the  institution has appeared before the committee as a repeat major violator under NCAA Bylaw 19.6.2.3, following a major infractions case in football in 1995 (1999 men's basketball and 2001 football). 

NCAA Bylaw 19.5.2.3.1 defines a "repeat violator" as the following:

An institution shall be considered a "repeat violator" if the Committee on Infractions finds that a major violation has occurred within five years of the starting date of a major penalty. 

For this provision to apply, at least one major violation must have occurred within five years after the starting date of the penalties in the previous case.

It  is not  necessary that the Committee on Infractions' hearing be conducted or its report issued within the five-year period.

In fact, because of the institution's extensive recent history of infractions cases, the committee strongly considered making a more serious finding of a lack of institutional control, rather than a failure to monitor. 

However, because the institution ultimately detected the violations and promptly reported them, the committee decided against making the more serious finding of lack of institutional control.”

It would seem that the Alabama Athletic Department had not made significant progress toward operating within the guidelines and rules set forth by the NCAA even after 15 years of close monitoring and probation by the NCAA.

For 15 years there is a continual, documented and undisputed record of the Alabama Athletic Department being in a constant state of rules violations.

The last NCAA Infractions Committee report was in 2009. The program has been constantly monitored since 1995 and has never ceased to commit violations in any year during the time interval leading to the last case in 2009.

The NCAA and all football fans must now wonder how the University of Alabama is complying with NCAA rules.

The entire purpose of NCAA imposed probation is to provide a member institution with the oversight and guidance necessary to bring their program into compliance with the rules and guidelines set forth by the organization.

The University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa has had over 15 years of oversight by the NCAA where literally hundreds of infractions were pointed out for corrective action.

Dave Martin/Getty Images
As in probation of any sort, it is expected for the participating party to abide by the rules outlined in the agreement for probation. In this case, it would be compliance with NCAA rules and guidelines set forth.

Recently the University of Alabama Athletics Department released a report listing their reported violations of NCAA rules and guidelines from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2011.

This is a two-year period presided over entirely by the current athletic director and head coach of the football program which has been historically the biggest violator.

This report courtesy of the Birmingham News and their request under state open records laws reveals a grocery list of violations. Reportedly, there were 16 violations by the football program in 24 months.

Listed were several impermissible contact violations. This was a reoccurring charge from multiple previous NCAA findings. There were also at least three cases of players receiving impermissible benefits. This was another reoccurring charge from multiple previous NCAA findings.

Usually there is some authority that must decide if a party on probation has completed the probationary period having corrected the problems that made the probation necessary. If satisfactory progress has not been made, usually there is a more authoritative next step in the process.

The NCAA will eventually decide if their 15 years of guidance and patience with the University of Alabama has produced adequate benefits to allow the end of this probationary marathon, but here the average fan has a chance to express their opinion on this subject. 

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