University releases NCAA letter

In a press briefing at the Alabama football complex this afternoon, University President Andrew Sorenson and Athletics Director Mal Moore publicly acknowledged the recent receipt of an Official Letter of Inquiry from the NCAA. After brief statements from each, a packet of information was handed out to the media, including a summary of the charges and redacted copies of the letter itself.

"There were no surprises in this letter," Sorenson said. "The allegations involve incidents we either self-reported or investigated jointly with the NCAA over the pasts 10 months.

"No current coach or student athlete is named in the inquiry."

Sorenson also pointed out that the allegations focus on booster activity linked to recruitment of athletes and the "questionable practices" of two former assistant coaches. Names had been edited out of the letter itself, but the two coaches in question are former Recruiting Coordinator and Tight Ends Coach Ronnie Cottrell and former Running Backs Coach Ivy Williams.

Promising that Alabama was "prepared to respond quickly…in a truthful and decisive manner," Coach Moore made clear his intention to see the matter through to its final resolution. "I will do everything in my power to see that these matters are resolved," Moore said. "We will correct where correction is necessary, and we will defend where we believe that action is justified."

Moore then praised the efforts of three university employees that have led The University's efforts in the investigation. "I would once again like to thank the members of our compliance team, Faculty Athletics Representative Gene Marsh, Associate Athletics Director for compliance Marie Robbins, and University attorney Stan Murphy for their tremendous efforts."

In a synopsis of the charges provided by The University, the following allegations dating from 1995 to 2000 were listed:

  • Recruiting violations involving representatives of the University's athletics interests (boosters) offering and providing cash and meals and making impermissible contacts with a prospective student-athlete and his parents;
  • A representative of the University's athletics interests offering and providing cash to a high school football coach in order to secure the enrollment of a prospective student-athlete;
  • Recruiting violations that occurred in connection with a prospective student-athlete's visits to campus;
  • Impermissible contacts by a representative of the University's athletics interests with prospective student-athletes being recruited by the University;
  • Excessive entertainment provided by enrolled student-athletes serving as hosts to prospective student-athletes during their official paid visit(s) to the University;
  • Two (2) extra benefits allegations involving a representative of the University's athletics interests providing an automobile to an enrolled student-athlete, at no cost to the young man, and a representative of the University's athletics interests providing cash to the same student-athlete during the young man's enrollment at the University;
  • A representative of the University's athletics interests arranging impermissible loans to a former assistant football coach;
  • Two (2) unethical conduct allegations involving two (2) former assistant football coaches for providing false and misleading information to both the NCAA Enforcement Staff and the University;
  • An unethical conduct allegation involving a former assistant football coach for his failure to report his knowledge of an academic fraud violation involving a prospective student-athlete who was recruited by the University but did not enroll; and
  • Five secondary violations self-reported by the University.

The media advisory stated that "Consistent with NCAA enforcement policies and procedures regarding confidentiality of infractions cases, the University will not comment further at this time." And following the briefing which lasted barely seven minutes, all University officials left without taking questions.

At this point the compliance team is finalizing the University's response to the letter, but officials have been adamant that the process can be accomplished in a short period of time. Normally, a university is given 90 days to prepare the formal reply, but it is clearly in Alabama's interests to act quickly.

The NCAA's Committee on Infractions, which will hear and decide the case, only meets certain months. And if Alabama is unable to get the matter resolved at the November meeting, then it would have to wait until February for the final resolution of the case.

Each of the two coaches named in the letter must also respond at the same time, and it is not clear whether their respective legal teams can be prepared quickly enough to make the November date.

Some of the charges listed were self-reported by Alabama compliance officials, and others were uncovered as part of a joint investigation involving Alabama and the NCAA. Therefore many of the charges listed would not be disputed and could move directly to resolution. However, as Moore indicated there are at least some alleged violations that The University will dispute.

Which charges will be acknowledged and which ones fought, will inevitably be the subject of speculation. But Moore did indicate at the conclusion of his statement, that the University's response would be "shared" at the "appropriate time."

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