The big news is not football

The big news in Alabama football didn't have anything to do with football practice Thursday. After 14 months of investigating, and missing their projected completion date of June 1 by over three months, the NCAA Investigative Staff has finally provided The University with an Official Letter of Inquiry. That letter contains details of the allegations of football improprieties by the previous Crimson Tide football staff headed by Mike DuBose.

However, those details have not been made public. To what extent such details will be revealed should come at a Friday afternoon "media briefing." The University acknowledged receipt of the letter Thursday morning and said it was being reviewed by President Dr. Andrew Sorensen and Athletics Director Mal Moore and that the "legal staff is analyzing its contents."

There has been speculation the letter contains approximately 10 charges of "major violations," including allegations of recruiting violations, academic fraud involving a prospective-student athlete, extra benefits, unethical conduct and failure to monitor. Almost every source suggests there is no charge of lack of institutional control. Among the charges that will be included is that booster Logan Young participated in illegal recruitment of former player Albert Means.

Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione said that he would not comment on the letter and asked that reporters not talk to his players about it in order to enable them to continue to focus on Saturday's game. "There's nothing we can do about it (the letter). We've just got to get ready."

Alabama takes on Vanderbilt, a team Bama has defeated 16 straight games, in the Tide's first road game and first Southeastern Conference game of the year Saturday. Kickoff in Vanderbilt Stadium will be shortly after 11:30 a.m. CDT with regional television coverage by Jefferson Pilot. Both teams are coming off losses, Alabama to UCLA and Vanderbilt to Middle Tennessee State. The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the low 80s with 93 per cent humidity and a 30 per cent chance of isolated thunderstorms.

Practices got better each day, Franchione said. He said that if Wednesday and Thursday work "had not been better than Tuesday's practice, then I wasn't going" to Nashville. He said Thursday's work in helmets and shorts was a good one in which focus was good. "We bounced around and had a good clean-up day." A Thursday practice includes a lot of work on the kicking game and review of the game plan.

Franchione was quite vocal in drills by the offense. He said, "We didn't have a bad day. But I had a little burr and I wanted to make sure. I was harping on every little thing, being a little more critical than usual, in trying to get their attention."

He said he is very much looking forward to the game. "And," he said, "on Sunday I hope I can look at the film and see where we took a big step forward."


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