The NCAA has levied a three-year probation against the University of Alabama athletic department and forced the school’s football team to vacate 21 past victories as punishment for a wide-scale scandal involving student-athletes and textbooks.
More than 200 student-athletes representing 16 of the school’s 17 sanctioned sports were involved in the case, most of them unwittingly. However, the NCAA did identify 22 individuals as “intentional wrongdoers,” who knowingly committed violations.
The university’s textbook disbursement system allows student-athletes on scholarship to charge their textbooks and other necessary academic supplies to the university’s on-campus supply store. After each month, the supply store forwards a detailed billing statement to the athletic department for review and payment.
According to the NCAA’s official report, the university failed to adequately monitor these reports, which showed that some students had charged academic items to their accounts on behalf of their girlfriends, friends and other acquaintances. This was the case for many of the 22 intentional wrongdoers, some of whom rang up charges in excess of $3,000.
However, most of the student-athletes implicated in the report were the victims of ill-informed bookstore employees. The report states that during the hectic “book rush” at the beginning of each semester, some book store employees included optional or recommended materials in the student-athlete’s book packages – materials not covered by the disbursement program and in violation of NCAA bylaws.
In most cases, these unintentional wrongdoers had accumulated less than $100 in impermissible charges and were cleared after making restitution to the university. The intentional wrongdoers had to pay withholding charges in addition to restitution. Some of the athletes, including five football players, were suspended for their role in the scandal during the last half of the 2007 season.
Seven of the university’s football players were implicated in the scandal, forcing the program to vacate victories from any game in which they competed. This means that Alabama technically finished winless in both 2005 and 2006, and only collected two official wins during Nick Saban’s first year in 2007. Saban will lose five victories off of his career total, giving him a 105-50-1 overall NCAA record.
However, despite the bad news, the football team will not lose any scholarships, nor will they be banned from postseason play.
Saban, who was not mentioned in the report, told The Birmingham News that he was relieved to have the matter settled.
“We're always happy to move on and we're looking forward to the future and are excited about the things we can accomplish,” Saban said. “I don't think this is going to affect the vision of the program or the student-athletes in the program or that we're recruiting.”
This is the fourth time in the past 14 years that the Alabama athletic program has faced major NCAA sanctions and the third time for the football program. In 1995, the football team was placed on a three-year probation, lost 25 scholarships, 11 victories and a chance to play in a bowl game as a result of shenanigans involving players, boosters and sports agents.
In 2002, the team was placed under NCAA probation for five years, lost 21 scholarships and received a two-year postseason ban - all resulting from 10 major violations, most involving boosters illegally supplying cash to recruits.
Check back with BirminghamWeekly.com next week for more on the NCAA’s verdict against the University of Alabama.