NCAA slaps Alabama’s wrist

Published 11:18 pm Thursday, June 11, 2009

The University of Alabama will have to vacate football games that involved ineligible players between 2005 and 2007 because of improprieties involving school textbooks, the NCAA Committee on Infractions announced Thursday.

Committee chairman Paul Dee, former University of Miami athletics director, said in a teleconference the infractions involved as many as 201 student-athletes in 16 sports. The value of the property involved in the infractions was estimated at $40,000.

Alabama, which was in repeat violator status after a 2002 probation, will be issued a public reprimand and will be assessed a three-year probation. Dee said no future withholding would be levied against the Crimson Tide.

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“This was not a lack of institutional control,” Dee said, explaining why the NCAA’s “death penalty” was not considered. “This was a failure to monitor. We think it is the most appropriate penalty for those involved.”

Alabama officials expressed disappointment with the severity, noting that no coach or staff member was involved and none of the players gained financially. Athletic director Mal Moore said the university was considering an appeal.

No Alabama sport lost postseason eligibility or scholarships.

The sports involved in the probation included softball, baseball, women’s gymnastics, football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s golf, swimming, tennis, track and field, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball. Of the 201 student-athletes, 22 were involved in intentional wrongdoing, Dee said.

Any mention of the vacated games must be “removed from public view,” including media guides, banners.

Nick Saban replaced Mike Shula as coach after the 2006 football season and suspended five players — Antoine Caldwell, Glen Coffee, Marquis Johnson, Chris Rogers and Marlon Davis — for four games when the university uncovered the violations in 2007. The Tide was 5-2 at that point and its only wins in the next six games came against Tennessee and Colorado in the Independence Bowl.

The sanctions come at a time when Alabama fans were celebrating the program’s return to national prominence.

Saban led the Tide to a 12-0 regular-season record and a No. 1 ranking last season, before the team lost to Florida in the Southeastern Conference championship game and to Utah in the Sugar Bowl.

“The penalty is not directed toward the coaches, but directed to the team and players,” Dee said.

“We told the university to go back through the names of players they have in respect to the games they played,” Dee said. “And those games will have to be vacated.”

Dee said the players did not have to make an outstanding play in a game for it to be vacated.

“If the student-athlete is able to play, then vacate the wins,” he said.

Dee said the difference between vacating games and forfeits is “more than semantics.”

“A vacation affects only the team involved and only in the wins,” he said. “In a forfeit, the opponent would improve its record.”

Dee praised Alabama for its conduct during the investigation, especially after its past dealings that involved the 2002 probation.

“The University of Alabama did a terrific job,” he said. “In this particular case, it was magnified by the number of athletes involved.”

The university uncovered the violations after an Alabama Supply Store employee realized that an athlete had more than $1,600 in charges for the fall semester of 2007 and alerted university officials. Athletes get free textbooks with their scholarships, but some were accused of getting additional textbooks for other students.

Alabama has changed some of its procedures, including requiring compliance officials to be present when student-athletes pick up their books.

The university has said none of the textbooks or materials were used for profit or to get items not related to academics, and the athletes involved who still have eligibility remaining have had to pay restitution.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.