Reaction to Suspension Rolls In

While reporters in New Orleans and in Alabama were digging for any truth to rumors that Andre Smith was suspended for improper contact with an agent, reaction to Smith's suspension for Friday's Allstate Sugar Bowl against Utah rolled in from players at the bowl site.

"It is bad news," Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson said after Monday's practice. "We lost the best offensive lineman in the country."

But none of the players either would or could go into any details about the reason for Smith's suspension. One reporter asked whether Saban had addressed the team before the season about contact with agents, and Caldwell responded, ""Uh ... yeah. That's a weird question, but yeah, he does."

Smith did not return a text message from asking what had happened.

Meanwhile, the Birmingham News ran with a story based on triple-hearsay stating that "two people in college football" who "talked with people who know what happened" say that improper contact with an agent is the reason for the suspension.

In general, improper dealing with an agent can cause a player to lose amateur status thereby making him ineligible to compete in NCAA college athletics. Alabama had to forfeit games in 1993 after the NCAA found that Antonio Langham had improper dealings with an agent. Many states have laws restricting the type of contacts agents are allowed to have with NCAA athletes in their state.

Utah players didn't view Smith's suspension as good news either. Defensive end Paul Kruger, who was set to match up with Smith during Friday's game, said he was disappointed he wouldn't get to face one of the most hyped offensive linemen in the game.

"It's disappointing, more for him than me," Kruger said, "but I'm sure they have great players to back him up. It would have been a great experience but we'll see who they put in there. He, of course, was the best tackle in the nation. It would have been a great opportunity for me."

The defensive players and coaches at Utah's defensive press conference Monday afternoon who had just heard about Smith's suspension – both their co-defensive coordinators and several players –were unanimous in saying that Smith's absence wouldn't have a substantial impact on their gameplan. The news was so fresh that Kruger expressed a hint of skepticism about the suspension.

"Any time you hear of a player going down like that you're always a little bit skeptical until the ball is in the air," he said. "It's a big loss for them, though. He's received a lot of recognition this year so I think it's a disadvantage for them. I think it's going to hurt them, but it's not going to change our scheme."

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