NCAA Denies UA Appeal For Victories

Anyone who doesn't understand how the NCAA works in regards to infractions penalties hasn't been paying attention. It all comes out of the same box. The Infractions Committee issues penalties, schools appeal, and the Appeals Committee completely disregards the appeal of the university.

To the surprise of no one who has been paying attention to NCAA justice, on Tuesday it was announced that the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee has upheld the vacation of records penalty for The University of Alabama.

"The Appeals Committee acknowledged that their decision in our case is not consistent with the NCAA's prior textbook and vacation-of-wins cases, which was the heart of UA's appeal," said Dr. Robert E. Witt, president of The University of Alabama. "Despite that acknowledgement, however, the Appeals Committee did not find an abuse of discretion. We are disappointed by the committee's inconsistent decision given the negative impact the decision has on hundreds of uninvolved student-athletes and their coaches."

"We're very disappointed because the Committee missed an excellent opportunity to follow its precedent set in recent cases, the precedent we followed due to the nature of the case," said Mal Moore, UA Director of Athletics. "We have thoroughly addressed the situation and have taken corrective measures. We are eager to move forward while continuing to build a program that not only is successful on the field, but also reflects the values of our University."

In October, 2007, Alabama discovered a flaw in its system of distribution of books to athletes. The University immediately reported the situation to the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA. Alabama also took immediate steps to remedy the situation and, in accordance with NCAA precedent penalized those Crimson Tide football players who had been implicated. The players were suspended for four games and then reinstated. Reinstated not by Bama Coach Nick Saban, not by The University, not by the SEC, but by the NCAA.

Alabama made an administrative audit and discovered athletes had been taking advantage of what the NCAA COI called "a gap" in its distribution policy for over two years and that it involved 201 athletes in 16 sports. The majority of those athletes had very limited participation and only a handful of those were identified as having been fully aware of the transgression. In any event, no athletes made any money from the situation. The only losses sustained were by Alabama's athletics department.

In June 2009, the NCAA Committee on Infractions penalized Alabama for major violations involving 16 sports in its athletics program. The violations included a failure to monitor by the university and impermissible benefits obtained by 201 student-athletes through misuse of the university's textbook distribution program.

Penalties in the case included three years' probation, vacation of records, and a $43,900 fine. A national football writer was among those who considered the penalties "bizarre."

Alabama appealed only the vacation of records penalty, which affected its football, men's tennis, and men's and women's track and field programs. The University pointed out that the vacation of wins penalty was excessive to the extent that it was an abuse of discretion as it did not consider The University's cooperation. More important, The University also presented evidence that the penalty: (a) was not consistent with past cases which included a vacation of records; and (b) did not follow previous textbook case precedent.

Of particular importance was the vacation of penalties for football, which penalized thousands of innocent players and coaches. Not only did it penalize those innocent players who were not involved in the textbook incident on the teams vacating wins, it took away victories from the Crimson Tide program that ranks among the nation's best. Bama can now claim 21 fewer victories because of the ruling.

In its affirmation of the penalty, the Infractions Appeals Committee disagreed with Alabama's appeal, but did not (could not, perhaps?) provide a specific reason for upholding the judgment.

It noted that the Committee on Infractions mentioned several times in the public report that it had considered The University's cooperation, which missed the point. The Infractions Committee may have mentioned the cooperation, but did not take it into account.

As for what should be an overwhelming role in providing justice– the role of case precedent in penalty decisions–the Infractions Appeals Committee bailed out with the phony notion that noted "two cases are seldom exactly alike and that the Committee on Infractions must have latitude to tailor the penalties to the specific facts of each case."

In its appeal Alabama had pointed out specific inconsistencies that are far more than latitude.

In the release from Indianapolis, headquarters of the NCAA, it was claimed that "considering the university's appeal, the Infractions Appeals Committee reviewed the notice of appeal; the transcript of the university's Committee on Infractions' hearing; and the submissions by the university and the Committee on Infractions."

The members of the Infractions Appeals Committee who heard this case were Christopher L. Griffin, Foley & Lardner LLP, chair; Susan Cross Lipnickey, Miami University (Ohio); Jack Friedenthal, George Washington University; William Hoye, Institute for the International Education of Students; and Allan A. Ryan Jr., Harvard University.

Due to the affirmation of the ruling, the University of Alabama football team will vacate 21 victories achieved between 2005 and 2007:

2005: Middle Tennessee, Southern Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah State, Mississippi State, and Texas Tech (Cotton Bowl).

2006: Hawaii, Vanderbilt, Louisiana-Monroe, Duke, Mississippi, and Florida International.

2007: Western Carolina, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Houston, and Mississippi.

Also, individual records of intentional wrongdoers in track and men's tennis will be vacated, and team point totals adjusted accordingly.

Vacation of these victories does not result in a loss (or forfeiture) of the affected contests, nor does it imply a victory for Alabama's opponent for records purposes. The vacation of wins penalty does not affect any of the football games in the University's national championship season.

No other team contest outcomes were affected by this ruling.

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