The Big Question: Who Is Talking?

In recent years on stories of consequence, the journalism standard of anonymous source use in newspapers and magazines has been high. It is somewhat lower on internet sites, almost non-existent in talk radio. That standard usually is at least two credible sources as determined by someone at a level above the writer. We have one snippet of "news," and only one anonymous source.

By the prevailing standard, there appear to be between one and 20 sources leaking the barest of teasers about the letter from the NCAA Committee on Infractions (COI) to The University of Alabama. Depending on which source one has, the letter has arrived or is on the way.

The letter is to contain the ruling of the COI regarding the October, 2007 (or perhaps earlier and/or later) textbook case that seemingly had been put to bed in November, 2007.

When we announced that Alabama would hire Nick Saban as head football coach of the Crimson Tide in January, 2007, we had only one source, but we considered that source to be absolutely rock solid.

Today I have zero sources on the matter of the arrival of the letter from the COI. Zilch. Nada. Zip.

My very best source in the world claims to know the result. Three years probation and no loss of scholarships for the football program.

Which is not to say that I disbelieve the reports I have been reading. I don't disbelieve or believe. I do want to note that as of this writing (4:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday, June 10), I have not been notified of a press conference for Thursday afternoon, and I have seen reports that one is scheduled.

As far as I know, I have been notified of every Alabama athletics department press conference for the past 40 or so years. But I guess I could have been overlooked for this one.

I also do not disbelieve (or believe) there will be a press conference Thursday afternoon. All of these reports are reasonable.

Even though Alabama was to receive advance notice of the finding, no one at Alabama can officially say anything. NCAA rules prohibit comment by a university until after the NCAA has released its findings to the news media.

But I can see Alabama officials leaking a little information...wink, wink, the NCAA won't care. Just not to me, I guess.

Alabama could have released quite a bit of information about the on-going investigation, but elected to not do so. As a result, it is impossible to know exactly what the charges and responses are, although Alabama did admit to "failure to monitor" when it met with the COI in February.

Although The University's original response in October, 2007, and subsequent comments indicated Alabama had uncovered the transgression, punished the gulty athletes in accordance with NCAA guidelines, fixed the problem, and then reinstated the players in accordance with NCAA guidelines. There were a few follow-up matters and reports of athletes in sports other than football involved.

This week the Birmingham News had a blockbuster, saying 200 athletes were involved. It didn't say how many sources confirmed that number.

Cecil Hurt of The Tuscaloosa News, perhaps the most widely-respected sports reporter at a newspaper in Alabama, seems to be calling for the head of Athletics Director Mal Moore for allowing this matter to have festered so long.

To say that Moore is responsible is correct. He hired people who failed to do the job, it can be argued. A case can also be made that Moore has done considerable good for the athletics department and might have earned a pass on this from University President Dr. Robert Witt and the board of trustees. That remains to be seen.

Depending on the outcome of this latest skirmish with the COI, there might be some "insanity" blame. Twice before Alabama went before the COI, hat in hand, turning over all information, cooperating to the fullest, and using the attorneys the NCAA wanted Alabama to use. If the result is the same--a seemingly unfair and unprecedented and incomprehensible penalty--then there might be some blame to fall on Moore. That would be particularly true if Alabama intends to go through the appeals process. That has proved to be more of a sham than the COI.

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