This time the letter was good news

Getting a letter from the NCAA doesn't <i>always</i> have to be miserable. <br><br>While nothing the NCAA or the Committee on Infractions can do will make up for the harm done to Alabama football, on Thursday, at least, The University was informed that the end has finally come.

Director of Athletics Mal Moore announced that the NCAA committee on infractions has concluded its investigation and will not increase or otherwise affect the penalties imposed on the institution in February 2002.

The letter was sent to University President Robert E. Witt from NCAA Committee on Infractions Chairman Thomas E. Yeager. The letter stated that a "reasonable time" for the committee to re-examine the case has elapsed. The committee had previously stated that if new information from proceedings in Memphis became available within a reasonable time the committee had the prerogative to re-open the case.

Alabama Head Football Coach Mike Shula was pleased. "It's great news," he said. "It's great for our current student-athletes and for our prospects and our future. It's another step moving forward. We can put a period on that now. It means we are eligible for a bowl game and the SEC championship. We can close the book on that."

Shula said Alabama assistant coaches would be carrying a laminated copy of the letter to show prospects, who have been told more penalties were coming for Bama.

Credit for Alabama finally securing this clearance goes primarily to Moore and to Southeastern Conference Commissioner Michael Slive. They made several trips to NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis to meet with staff and with the Infractions Committee to gain the letter. Early negotiations involved Barry Mason, who served as interim president of The University after the departure of Andrew Sorensen for South Carolina. After Robert E. Witt became president, he joined the delegation.

Moore complimented members of the NCAA staff for their cooperation. He called receipt of the letter "unbelievable relief."

Here is the text of the letter:

"Dear President Witt:

"At the time of the University of Alabama's hearing before the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions in November 2001 and again in the February 2002 infractions report, the committee noted that if new information from the criminal proceeding in Memphis, Tennessee, became available within a ‘reasonable time,' the committee had the prerogative to re-examine the case. The committee has concluded that with regard to institutional responsibility, a reasonable time has elapsed. Therefore, the committee hereby advises the institution that any additional findings of violations that may be found will not increase or otherwise affect the penalties imposed on the institution in February 2002. The institution should note, however, that it may be required to participate in the processing of additional violations in order for the committee to consider whether the involvement of former staff members would warrant a show-cause order.

"In making this decision, the committee took into account several factors. First, as previously indicated, the case was adjudicated two years ago. Second, serious findings were made and severe penalties imposed as a result of the case. The committee believes that the penalties that were imposed and upheld on appeal were sufficient. Additionally, both before and after the announcement of the committee's decision, the institution provided full cooperation and demonstrated a continued commitment to rules compliance. Any additional penalties against the institution would not further the goals of diligent rules compliance by member institutions. Last, the committee recognizes that the public's knowledge of the fact that the committee could re-examine the case has worked the unintended consequence of itself becoming another penalty. One important aspect of the enforcement process is that institutions have the chance to ‘wipe the slate clean' once an infractions matter is concluded and the penalties served. Closure at this time would further that purpose of the infractions process."

Parts of the letter would be laughable were in not for the incredible harm done to The University, a cost of millions of dollars and Bama's football program put at a competitive disadvantage for years. The letter referred to the "unintended consequence" of Alabama basically receiving the recruiting disadvantage of schools being able to allege that more penalties would be assessed against the Crimson Tide. This was no more "unintended" than was the infractions committee issuing its original report of charges only days before the 2002 Signing Day after having allowed Alabama to twist in the wind for months.

For Yeager to say it was "unintended" serves only to underscore the entire sham of the investigation, adjudication, and appeals process, so obviously a fix.

Were those in charge dumb or corrupt?

And as for the "public knowledge," every aspect of the case was made public on Internet web sites connected to Tennessee football before The University even was informed.

Yeager was a blusterer when announcing Alabama's penalties, inaccurately describing The University has having been "staring down the barrel of a gun."

More recently he was more blubberer than blusterer, whining "he had never set foot in Alabama," as he unsuccessfully attempted to extricate himself from the $60 million lawsuit filed by Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams against the NCAA and others, including Yeager.

However, no one should credit that lawsuit with having any effect on the NCAA and Yeager issuing the letter. One inside source suggested that, if anything, the lawsuit might have delayed issuance of the letter. Those with a healthy skepticism of NCAA conscience consider the delay unconscionable regardless of circumstances.

More plausible is that the Federal case against former Alabama booster Logan Young in Memphis forced the NCAA to issue the letter. That was the basis of the original determination that Alabama would, indeed, have a gun at its head for as long as the NCAA Infractions Committee wished.

While the letter said "a reasonable time" had now passed, what has really changed in favor of The University? Nothing.

However, if the NCAA has the feeling that the government's case against Young is not going well, it would seem to benefit the NCAA to save a bit of face by making its announcement before conclusion of that action in Memphis.

And, to be honest, it would have done The University almost no good to have issued the letter any later than is already the case. That would have been transparent, exposing the lack of good faith on the part of the NCAA. Opposing schools have continued to tell prospects that Alabama is facing the death penalty.

At least for the conclusion of this recruiting season, prospects will know that those opposing coaches were lying to them.

BamaMag Top Stories