Cottrell Trial Looming

In a little over three weeks the circus known as Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams v. NCAA is expected to officially get underway in Tuscaloosa, and much like the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey version, there's a heavy dose of skepticism about the value of such a production going forth.

Alabama has been dragged around by this affair and taken its medicine in the form of bowl bans and scholarship reductions, a common line of thinking says, so Alabama and its fans should disavow any interest in the revelations or outcomes possible in the case.

Alabama - the university - has done this. Administration officials have been mum about the case and coaches haven't outwardly signaled any interest – any knowledge even – of the basic matter of an alleged conspiracy at hand. They have other things to worry about besides a court case, obviously.

The University had little other choice, considering what is at stake and the importance of a livable relationship between UA and the NCAA, than to tacitly support a quick and quiet resolution to Cottrell's case.

Alabama – the fan base – is a different story. Fans and followers certainly are divided about the potential ramifications of Cottrell's $60 million lawsuit against the private organization that slapped Cottrell with a "show cause" tag on its web site, blacklisting him from college coaching for all practical purposes.

A chance to bring a Teflon-defying brand of scandal to Tennessee's doorstep is one perceived benefit in pursuing the matter.

And in the wake of Rick Neuheisel's embarrassment of the NCAA in the settlement of his recent case, to add another blow to the NCAA's credibility in matters of selective and targeted persecution is too good to pass up for many Tide fans.

If steps can be made toward putting the brakes on the runaway train that is the NCAA, then all the better.

Consider me in the latter category, but not without hesitation.

The NCAA should follow its own rules, not make them up as they go along. And those rules should be roughly the same for every institution – not the barrel of a gun for one; a ruler to the wrist for another.

That beacon of hypocrisy in Tennessee shouldn't have skated by with a cursory pat-down in matters regarding Diane Sanford and the allegations of Linda Bensel-Meyers, while Alabama endured a full-cavity search that resulted in an unproven guilty verdict against the program.

The hesitation, however, comes because it's clear that even the good guys have flaws.

Observing Tommy Gallion's comments in the media is much like watching those late-night jewelry infomercials on television – there's a feeling that the diamond might not shine so brilliantly with an up-close, in-person look.

There's also conceivably plenty of slop and mud the NCAA can sling at Cottrell, considering they might want to show there are other reasons he hasn't been able to land a Division-IA job since his exit at Alabama.

And Ivy Williams, who acquitted himself poorly in Logan Young's federal trial by most accounts, will likely face a jury once again.

Ultimately, though, most of us want to know the truth. And most of us can handle the truth, even portions that are raw, bloody and tough to swallow.

When Alabama loses, we seek answers as to why. We want someone to be held accountable. Some look for a scapegoat while others seek more careful inspection.

Alabama's NCAA infractions case started a snowball rolling downhill that cost the University dearly in terms of athletic footing, reputation and on-the-field success – not to mention the financial impact.

If it takes a $60 million lawsuit with a P.T. Barnum-like attorney as the ringmaster to learn more about why it happened – what the key players knew and when they knew it - then bringing that truth to light is meaningful.

Logan Young was an easy scapegoat in the NCAA infractions case, but the bigger picture in the matter has not yet been fully painted. With any luck, the portrait will be viewable in Tuscaloosa in the coming weeks.

It's not a certainty, however. For a hefty sum, would Team Cottrell fold up their tents and leave town without a single performance, and without ever uttering another word about harsh NCAA tactics?

It's tough to consider, but entirely possible that Gallion's circus promotion has been posturing for a Neuheisel-like settlement from the deep pockets of the NCAA.


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