"We were notified today that we will be on the November docket," said Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore this afternoon on the practice fields. "We're in the final drive of our response, but there is still a way down the road to go."
For months University officials have made known their intent to respond quickly to the charges, intending to resolve the matter as soon as possible so that the program can move forward. Moore explained; "It is what we wanted. We made every effort to be prepared and to have our response ready. This gives us the opportunity to get the sanctions before the recruiting season. It doesn't mean that we will, but we certainly have a chance now."
The NCAA's Letter of Official Inquiry was received the first week of September, following Alabama's season-opening loss to UCLA. At that time, it was assumed that The University would miss out on the November docket. Former assistants Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams, both named in the letter, must appear at the same time as The University. And lawyers for the respective coaches had indicated they would need more time to formulate their responses.
But today's announcement indicates that will not be a problem. "I do appreciate the law firms that are representing our coaches and the effort that they have put forward to do this," Moore said. "I think the NCAA is comfortable that they will be ready."
Since news of the NCAA's investigation first surfaced over a year ago, the Tide program has taken a beating in the media. And recruiters for many opposing schools have taken full advantage, bombarding high school athletes with their ‘inside information' about the supposed outcome of the investigation.
The charges and innuendo badly damaged last season's recruiting efforts, but Alabama officials are hopeful that won't happen again. "I think the timing will help everybody," Moore said. "It's important for these coaches to know where they stand. It's important for the athletes around this state that may be interested in Alabama to know the situation. We'll have the facts. Other people won't be telling them what could happen. Our coaches will have all the facts."
Alabama will reportedly accept many of the accusations brought by the NCAA, while disputing some others. But Moore said fans shouldn't read anything into the quick response one way or another. "I don't think (it had an affect). We're still preparing our response, but we feel that we're in very good position now to be ready within 45 days of the (receipt) of the Letter of Inquiry."
In sharp contrast to how other schools have handled the process, Alabama moved quickly to release an edited copy of the accusations to the public. But fans shouldn't expect to read The University's response until later. And no information on possible self-imposed sanctions is now available. "Those are decisions that we'll make as we go down the road the next couple of weeks," Moore said. "We'll make our decisions then. How we respond will be said at due time, and when we think is best."
In a bit of irony not likely to be lost on Tide fans, the hearing is scheduled for November 17, the day of Alabama's annual showdown with Auburn. Moore commented; "I hate that, but I gladly volunteered, Dr. Sorenson and myself, to miss the game, because I think it's that important. We will be at these meetings during that weekend, doing everything that we can to help the coaches and the program."
TEXT OF ALABAMA'S ANNOUNCEMENT:
The University of Alabama has been informed that the NCAA Committee on Infractions has scheduled a hearing on November 17, 2001 concerning matters related to the University's letter of official inquiry. The hearing will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Even though the hearing will be held on the same day as the Alabama vs. Auburn football game, University officials, including President Andrew Sorensen and Director of Athletics Mal Moore, will attend the hearing as required by the Committee on Infractions. Coach Dennis Franchione will be fulfilling his coaching responsibilities in Auburn, but will accommodate any request by the Committee on Infractions or the University to provide a statement or presentation.