Alabama Football: The 5 Biggest 'Bama Scandals

Charlie MillsonCorrespondent IAugust 21, 2011

Alabama Football: The 5 Biggest 'Bama Scandals

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    With NCAA sanctions raining down from Columbus to Los Angeles to Miami, we wanted to review the five biggest scandals in Alabama football history.

    Granted, the University's premier sports program is one of, if not the most storied and traditional in the sport.

    But with that storied history and notoriety sometimes come poor choices.

    Happily for Tide fans everywhere, scandal in the program is the exception and not the rule.

    Here, then, are the five biggest scandals in Tide history.

No. 5: Mike Price Blows It

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    Sometimes football teams from Florida can bring down a coach.

    Sometimes one's own actions in Florida can bring down a coach.

    That's what happened to Mike Price, newly hired coach of Alabama in 2003. Price had been brought in from Washington State to take over from Dennis Franchione.

    The short version of this scandal, according to Sports Illustrated, is that Coach Price went to Pensacola for a golf outing, got rowdy in a bar/strip club and allowed a woman (not his wife) to run a room service bill of close to $1,000.

    All of this happened before he ever coached a game. In one of the quickest turn-arounds in the history of sports, and before you could say, "lap dance," Price was gone and was replaced with the infinitely respectable Mike Shula.

    This is why we don't go to Florida. At least in Alabama, the stripper stories are much more easily buried.

No. 4: Dodd vs. Bryant

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    Coach Paul Bryant scandal? Depends on whom you ask.

    Everyone knows Coach Bryant's grit, determination and hard work, and the fact he expected the same out of his players.

    What many in recent decades have forgotten is that, in some quarters, during his early years in Tuscaloosa, Coach Bryant had a reputation for teaching his players to play "dirty" in an effort to win at all costs. This charge was loudest after one of Georgia Tech head coach Bobby Dodd's players was severely injured in a game against 'Bama, setting off the Atlanta press.

    The SEC's policies on oversigning players was the primary reason for Dodd leading Georgia Tech's charge out of the conference, according to him in his autobiography (h/t oversigning.com), though this incident was on Dodd's mind for a long time.

    And that's not all; Coach Bryant was also accused by The Saturday Evening Post of fixing a 1962 game between Alabama and Georgia with Bulldogs head coach Wally Butts. The latter coach sued The Saturday Evening Post's publisher, Curtis Publishing Company, and won $3,060,000 on behalf of himself and Bryant.

    Coach Bryant denied both sets of claims, but his reputation in the early 1960s took some strong hits. There were even some who called for his resignation. 

    That's when many noticed a change in the coach. According to one book about these incidents, Fumble, by James Kirby, Bryant began working to insure that no one could besmirch his or the University's reputation.

    In fact, his reputation began to change from that of a win-at-all-costs firebrand to one of a tough but kindly father figure, the idol of the 'Bama Nation, that he rightfully remains today.

No. 3: Coaches Don't Leave Alabama Voluntarily

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    OK, so this is not a "scandal" in the sense that the NCAA instigated an investigation and infractions were put in place.

    But, for Alabama fans, it came as a shock to the system when a head coach left the Capstone voluntarily to coach another team.

    Coaches at Alabama don't leave voluntarily. They get fired for not winning (Jennings Whitworth, Mike DuBose) or, yes, personal scandal (Price). But they don't leave for "greener pastures." 

    Because there are no greener pastures anywhere, ever.

    That's why the departures of Wallace Wade for Duke (Duke!), Bill Curry for Kentucky and Dennis Franchione for...for wherever hell is came as such a surprise and, yes, scandal.

    See, Bill Curry, coaches leave Kentucky for Alabama, not the other way around (even with a detour in College Station). See, Franchione, you don't leave for College Station; you leave from College Station.

    And you certainly don't turn down a 10-year contract and tell your players you're not coming back via teleconference.

No. 2: Langham Hamstrings the Tide

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    In the middle of the great success of the Gene Stallings era at Tuscaloosa, one of his players, Antonio Langham, made some poor choices that hurt his university for some time.

    Langham, a defensive back, signed early with a pro agent in anticipation of the NFL draft in 1993. Two years later, the NCAA imposed sanctions resulting from this action, according to Sports Illustrated. The sanctions included probation, scholarship limitations, a postseason ban (1995), forfeit of wins in 1993 and, most harmful, scholarship reductions.

    The scholarship reductions led, in part, to the beginning of a decline in the fortunes of the Tide in the years between the Stallings championship and the Saban era (with the exception of the DuBose success in 1999). Scholarship reduction along with probation can do serious damage to a program. Some argue that Stallings retired early because of his frustration with the sanctions that resulted. 

    That led to the hiring of Mike DuBose, and eventually more sanctions, resulting from the Means affair. The Textbook Matter that is still ongoing followed that within a few years.

    But it all started, in a way, with Langham's poor choices.

No. 1: The Sad, Sad Story of Albert Means

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    Albert Means was a prep superstar in his hometown of Memphis. Most colleges wanted him to come to them and play defensive tackle. Named Mr. Football in Tennessee in 1999 as well as a high school All-American, Means could go anywhere he wanted.

    One problem with that concept, according to USA Today, was that Means didn't test well and probably wouldn't qualify to play college ball because of low ACT or SAT scores. So, an enterprising Alabama booster named Logan Young came up with a solution.

    Have someone else take the tests for Albert.

    Oh, and arrange to pay one of his high school coaches $150,000 to insure that Albert would go to Alabama.

    Those acts and others caused Alabama to receive a two-year bowl ban and five years of probation from the NCAA. In addition, Alabama lost 21 scholarships and almost received the "death penalty"—having the program disbanded for a proscribed period.

    Means played only a handful of games at Tuscaloosa under Coach Mike DuBose. After the scandal broke, he transferred to Memphis, where he was moderately successful on the field.

The Era of Instant Scandal

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    Salacious, sensational, and scandalous. That's what sells in sports and even in the news cycle. The explosion of electronic media, including recording and photo devices, has created a market for such things as scandal among the football fanatics worldwide.

    With more information in the information age there is more clamor for access. That access often leads to rumor, set-up, and, sometimes, even the exposure of true wrong-doing.

    Yet, who would have thought 30 years ago that autograph seekers could potentially bring down a program? That buying a hamburger for your favorite player could lead to sanctions? That a player simply enjoying a night out could lead to some fame-hungry person throwing a punch and landing that player in jail? The electronic media is looking for a story anywhere it can find it, often even if the story largely fabricated.

    For example, simply look at the so-called Suitgate scandal. Luckily, today Alabama has compliance officers and an athletic director's office that are proactive.

    Thomas Fuller once said, "A lie has no legs, but a scandal has wings."

    Let's pray for amputation.