Big surprise, NCAA hits Bama hard
Feb. 7, 2002
The NCAA fooled me.
Up until the time the hammer came down on Alabama I had about decided those writers who said the Tide was a sacred cow, safe from everything but a minor rap on the knuckles, had to be right.
There should have been a tipoff the day before when the NCAA came down on Kentucky's football program like a load of bricks. But Kentucky football is one thing and Alabama's program is something entirely else. It and Notre Dame and a few others are, to use a tired old cliche, what college football is all about. Winning. National rankings. Bowl games. All American players. Bear Bryant. "Naughty, naughty" was certainly going to be the NCAA judgment. "Go forth and sin no more."
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Kentucky was a hint. The Wildcats were cited for more than three dozen recruiting violations. The administration of course, said they had no idea what was going on. Of course.
Hope? Hope it never happens again? I would have preferred it if Ivy had said "It's something we're going to make damn sure never happens again."
That's what institutional control is all about. You don't "hope" you can keep your coaches and boosters under control. You make certain you do. At the very least you try.
In Bama's case, the money being spread around was so large there was no way someone wouldn't or couldn't notice. One booster allegedly handed out $10,000 in paper bags like sacks of groceries.
But one of the most interesting aspects of this case is university president Andrew Sorenson's somewhat frantic attempts to cover his own behind.
Rogue boosters are to blame he said. They had to appeal. University officials "are firm in our belief that the penalties are inappropriate. We regret that we must prolong this process but the decision we have been given today is simply unacceptable."
Come to think about it, I like Ivy's answer better.
The truth is that Sorenson had no choice but to say those things and appeal the NCAA's decision if he wanted to keep his job. To simply accept the facts as laid out would likely have put him on the unemployment line. Too many Tide fans believe they really didn't do anything wrong. They simply don't accept the statement by Thomas Yeager, chairman of the infractions committee who said Bama was staring down the barrel of a gun. He called the violations, "one of the worst, most serious that have ever occurred."
Violations of this nature occur when a coach hits the big time with a big salary and is expected to produce now. Hal Mumme took over a program from Bill Curry which in 1994 finished 0-8 in league play and 1-10 overall. But he had Tim Couch to play quarterback and his second year, 1998, he went 4-4 in the conference, 7-5 overall and played in the Outback Bowl. In the 1999 season with a 6-5 record he took his team to the Music City Bowl. For Kentucky that was high cotton and the alumni was thrilled. They wanted more, regardless.
The Mike Dubose story had a different twist. He succeeded the very successful Gene Stallings who in his last year coaching Bama, led them to 6-2 in the league and 10-3 for the season. They finished first in the West and played in the Outback Bowl.
Dubose took over, won only two conference games, posted a 4-7 overall, finished 5th in the six-team SEC West and went nowhere when the season was over. Talk about pressure. It was the worst year on the field for the Tide since J.B. "Ears" Whitworth coached them to 2-7-1 in 1957.
Dubose could only blame Stallings one year for allegedly leaving him so few talented players. After that Tide fans wouldn't buy it. So somebody decided to help out and the probation is the result.
In this part of Mississippi there are a lot of Alabama fans. Some will understand what happened. Others will deny it to their dying day. I feel sorry for both groups because I know what football means to them. But if the facts are as presented by the NCAA, and there's no real reason to believe otherwise, then I have new-found respect for the NCAA.
As an old soldier once said, "They seen their duty and they done it."