Dark day at The Capstone

In an action that Tide officials labeled both "surprising" and "unacceptable," the NCAA Committee on Infractions leveled crippling sanctions against the Alabama football program, including a two-year ban on post-season play.

"We at The University of Alabama are extremely disappointed by the decision," University President Andrew Sorenson said. "We respectfully disagree with several conclusions…and with the penalties imposed. It is our firm conviction that the penalties are not supported by (the violations)."

Tide Athletics Director Mal Moore adamantly disagreed with the committee's report. "Certainly, I was surprised," he said. "By both the extent and severity of the penalties."

The list of sanctions leveled is lengthy, but the most important points involve:

  • A two-year ban on post-season play
  • A reduction in "initial counter" scholarships of eight, seven and six over the next three years
  • For any of the next three seasons, Alabama may have no more than 80 players on scholarships at any given time.

The ban on post-season play would preclude the Tide from going to any bowl in 2002 or 2003, including the SEC championship game. The latter stipulation means that despite its potential record, Alabama is ineligible for any SEC title those two years.

The "initial counter" phrase refers to the maximum of 25 scholarships that a school can award in the fall of a given year. 17, 18 and 19 would the most players that Alabama could bring in for each of the next three seasons.

That limitation would not prevent Bama coaches from awarding a scholarship to a deserving walk-on. But the limit of no more than 80 players on scholarship at any one time (normally the number is 85) severely limits that option.

"This case was clearly one of the worst in recent years," said Thomas Yeager, Infractions Committee Chair and Commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association. "The committee's review of the case was complicated by Alabama's ‘repeat violator' status. These violations were some of the worst that have occurred."

Numerous allegations were leveled against Alabama during the course of the investigation, but Yeager identified three charges that the committee considered the foundation for the penalties.

  • The allegation that money was funneled to a North Alabama recruit (Kenny Smith) by an Alabama booster to entice him to sign with the Tide.
  • The allegation that money and other inducements were offered to the high school coach (Lynn Lang) of a Memphis recruit (Albert Means) to arrange for the player to sign with Alabama.
  • The allegation that a Tide player (Travis Carroll) was provided with a truck free of charge, which was only repossessed when the player transferred away from Alabama.

Smith did not qualify and never enrolled at Alabama, eventually ending his career as a Tennessee Volunteer. Means, who enrolled and played in a backup role in 2000, is now attending Memphis. Travis Carroll played well during his true freshman year at Alabama, but spent much of the next season injured. He has since transferred to Florida.

All three charges involved rule breaking by so-called boosters. "Quite honestly, we're trying to get a message to the boosters around the country," Yeager said. "We're not kidding. If (boosters) refuse to adhere to the rules, there will be consequences. They need to get the message."

In its self-imposed sanctions offered up to the committee last November, Alabama had agreed to disassociate three boosters for periods ranging from three to seven years. But in its report today, the committee ordered Alabama to "show cause" why those terms should not be made permanent for all three men. Also, the committee ordered that the booster involved with the truck allegation be disassociated for three years.

When asked if a permanent ban was being considered by University officials, Sorenson quickly replied, "It is now."

"Alabama currently has more than 195,000 living alumni," Sorenson added. "And we have hundreds of thousands of other supporters that are not alumni. Coach Moore and myself cannot monitor them all daily. If a problem is brought to our attention, we will deal with it forcefully."

Yeager specifically communicated his hope that "public scorn" would be heaped on any booster judged guilty of breaking NCAA rules. "Thousands of fans were done in by one of their own," he said.

Alabama was also placed on probation for five years, beginning February 1, 2002, which will coincide with the length of time The University will be subject to the ‘repeat violator' rule. During that time Tide officials will be monitored more closely and must submit reports on their efforts to increase compliance.

Additionally, the committee publicly reprimanded and censured The University.

Interestingly, Yeager went out of his way to compliment every Alabama official involved in the process, mentioning specifically Faculty Representative Gene Marsh and Marie Robbins, Alabama's Associate Athletic Director for Compliance. "I can't see anything more that they could have done," he said. "We know how hard this university has worked to have an ethical program."

Marsh is a law professor at Alabama who currently serves as a member of the Committee on Infractions, though he recused himself from the deliberations involving Alabama. Robbins, a former All-American gymnast at Alabama, spent time working in collegiate administration before returning to her alma mater.

Coach Moore stated Alabama's intent to appeal the decision. "This matter has not and will not be resolved until we are provided an opportunity to present a vigorous appeal," Moore said. "I urge our alumni, fans and followers to support Coach Franchione, his staff and the current players throughout this period and the upcoming seasons.

"If Alabama ever needed the full support of our fans, it is now as we resolve to move forward."

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