Alabama Appeals NCAA Penalties

The University of Alabama had previously announced that it would appeal that part of NCAA penalties forcing Crimson Tide players and teams to vacate earned victories. On Tuesday The University filed an impressive document citing numerous errors by the NCAA Committee on Infractions (COI).

Alabama did not attempt to rewrite the case, making its appeal based on NCAA case precedent and NCAA by-laws, which The University shows were ignored by the COI.

The University did not appeal a three-year probation or fine. Alabama had previously agreed to a Failure to Monitor violation in connection with a textbook scandal in which 201 athletes took advantage of what the COI termed "a gap" in its oversight system. Only 22 of the athletes were found to have been "intentional wrongdoers," and there was ample evidence that none regarded the action as a violation of NCAA rules and that none benefited financially from the scam.

As pointed out in the original case (thought mostly overlooked by the COI), the problem was discovered by The University, players involved were penalized by Alabama in accordance with NCAA guidelines, a report was made to the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA, the "gap" was fixed and new policy put in place, and some University employees were penalized.

The vacated wins are from games seven football players participated in during the 2005-07 seasons, including the 2006 Cotton Bowl victory over Texas Tech.

Based on NCAA standard of appeal, Alabama said that it found the COI to have been guilty of "an abuse of discretion" because it did not apply the correct legal standard." The appeal shows several cases involving textbook cases, all of them more serious than Alabama's, and none involving vacation of victories.

The appeal adds, "the COI based its decision, in part, on clearly erroneous factual findings." It was pointed out that there was no academic fraud and no involvement of coaches or other University officials.

The appeal continues that "the COI decision was ‘based on a clear error of judgment' and arbitrarily, capriciously, and irrationally departs from the penalties imposed in prior" relevant cases.

Finally, The University said, "the COI failed to consider the proper and relevant factors as established in prior cases."

The document also points out the unfairness of penalizing the innocent coaches and players who participated in the victories and the fact that the guilty players were all punished in accordance with NCAA guidelines. Additionally, it was noted that the COI failed to consider the level of cooperation by The University.

The appeal concluded that the Appeals Committee "has established factors that must be considered before a vacation of wins is imposed. None are present in this case. ...[T]his Committee defined an abuse of discretion [by the COI] to include applying incorrect legal standards" or misapprehending substantive legal factors; erring in judgment such that a penalty is arbitrary, capricious; or irrational; and basing a decision on irrelevant or improper factors. Meeting one of those definitions is sufficient for reversal....This case meets them all."

Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore said, "The appeal we've filed is consistent with the feelings that we shared in our statements following the original ruling. I think it reflects valid points we felt needed to be expanded upon and I'm hopeful that the Committee will consider the appeal fairly and with care."

The university had 30 days from its notice of appeal in late June to file a written appeal. The committee has 30 days to respond, and Alabama will have 14 days to rebut.

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