UA Compliance Heads Off Trouble

The college football world regarding Alabama seemed to be divided into two camps with the same outlook: Crimson Tide football players signing autographs convinced both the vigilantes and the Chicken Littles that the sky in the form of NCAA enforcement was about to fall on Bama football.

As it turned out, the calm in the storm was the Alabama athletics department, which had been pro-active on the situation involving the activities at a Tuscaloosa menswear store. The conclusion:

"Because we found no evidence of any NCAA violation, we did not self-report a violation."

The University produced evidence that it had been aware of the potential for a perception of a compliance issue, and had taken several protective steps – including disassociation of the menswear merchant.

Various legitimate media outlets have interviewed former Alabama players who have confirmed the findings of Bama's compliance office, that no players received any benefits for autographs or photographs. Current players are never available to the media except in specified times during the season or during practice times or such as Southeastern Conference Media Days.

One can understand the hope of the enemies of Alabama and the concern of the supporters of the Crimson Tide. In the past the NCAA has heaped praise on Bama for its efforts in compliance, just before sticking the knife in the back of The University. That history notwithstanding, Alabama stays the course of vigilance and cooperation, as mandated by NCAA membership.

Here is the statement issued by Mike Ward, the associate athletics director for compliance, addressing the situation of T-Town Menswear owner Tom Albetar:

"Our review of this matter was a part of our normal compliance program. We routinely look at all situations of potential concern. Based on our review of this matter, we concluded that Mr. Albetar was in compliance with NCAA regulations. It is not a violation for student-athletes to sign autographs and it is not a violation for a business to display photos, jerseys or other items depicting current student-athletes. We found no evidence that any student-athlete received any extra benefits.

"Due to the concerns expressed in our letter to Mr. Albetar dated March 31, 2011, we disassociated him from our program. As we always do in matters of this nature, we discussed this matter with the SEC Office. Because we found no evidence of any NCAA violation, we did not self-report a violation. UA will continue to be proactive in all areas of compliance monitoring."

The disassociation, initially for a period of three years, means that Albetar will not be allowed any contact with athletes or coaches except as in his role as merchant and that he will not be allowed to participate as a donor, such as to Tide Pride.

The letter of disassociation was dated March 31 and was hand delivered to Albetar (or Al-batar, as it was spelled in the letter from Athletics Director Mal Moore).

The letter pointed out that the menswear merchant had "been afforded education...on a number of occasions pertaining to promotional activities and extra benefits for student-athletes."

The letter noted there had been no evidence of impermissible activity, but noted that the volume of memorabilia had "potentially placed the University and its student-athletes at risk...for potential NCAA investigations or sensationalized journalism..."

The letter also said that Al-batar had not been conclusively identified as a booster "as defined by the NCAA," and added that he had "been cooperative...and forthcoming when interviewed

The letter concluded, ..."[W]e intend to take every step necessary to comply with NCAA rules and regulations and to protect the University of Alabama, its student-athletes and the rich athletic tradition that is a vital part of this university."

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