The NCAA has declared Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus ineligible for two games for accepting improper benefits.
The ruling Thursday also ordered Dareus to repay $1,787 dollars to a charity of his choice before regaining eligibility. The Crimson Tide opens Saturday night against San Jose State and then hosts No. 19 Penn State.
Dareus was ruled ineligible for receiving preferential treatment and agent benefits, including airfare, lodging, meals and transportation during two trips to Miami, Fla.
Notice that there were two trips in question here, where as previously we were aware of only one. Who knows the details surrounding the second trip, but almost assuredly that played a role in the suspension.
For what it's worth, Dareus apparently handled the situation as he should have. UA compliance director Mike Ward says that Dareus did not intentionally violate NCAA rules, and that he was truthful throughout the entire investigation. Gentry Estes reports, as a result of mitigating factors like those, the suspension of Dareus was reduced from four games to two. You hate to see him forced to miss games, but at least Dareus seemingly did what he was supposed to do.
Regardless, while it's disappointing that Dareus will miss the Penn State game, at least this does bring a close to it all. Furthermore, even without Dareus, we've still got a great deal of talent on the defensive line, and we should be able to take advantage of Penn state's uncertain offensive line and true freshman quarterback. There's no use whining like a bunch of Texas fans, you play with the ones you have and we don't have Dareus for our game with the Nittany Lions. Deal with it, move on, and we should still be able to beat Penn State. If we don't, no excuses, no whining about what could have been.
The good news, though, is that Dareus will return for conference schedule. Given what happened here, this could have easily turned into something much, much worse, and while the two-game suspension is disheartening, we will have Dareus back for the Arkansas game, which in all honesty carries far more importance in the grand scheme of things than the Penn State game.
Editor's Note: hat tip to BamaBrian for breaking the news first in his fanshot.
Update I: Click here to read the official release from the NCAA.
Update II: Nick Saban said on his radio show tonight that Alabama would appeal. Given that the suspension was reduced from four games to two, however, I wouldn't hold my breath, especially considering it would require an expedited review at a time when the NCAA is very, very busy with other eligibility matters. Perhaps it's worth a short, but don't expect to see him until we head north to play Duke.
Update III: Pete makes a great point in the comments, so keep this in mind as context when the urge to moan and groan about the severity of this penalty strikes:
If you had told me three weeks ago that Dareus got two trips instead of just one, I’d probably have guessed 4 games minimum, with even odds of being declared permanently ineligible.
Those must have been some pretty fierce mitigating circumstances.