With the NCAA already tossing about the phrases "willful violator" and "death penalty" in relation to the recent allegations levied against Miami, much attention has been given to former UM staffers, and current UA employees, Jeff Stoutland and Joe Pannunzio. The obvious caveat is that factual evidence must still support any bald allegations, but admittedly discretion has already been thrown to the wind in that regard. The involvement of Stoutland in this whole scheme still seems somewhat murky, but the 400+ telephone calls between Pannunzio and Nevin Shapiro create a very strong inference that, in his role as director of football operations, Pannunzio was effectively arranging the logistics of the transfer of impermissible benefits from Shapiro to Pannunzio (that inference becomes even stronger with Shapiro's seeming intent to protect Pannunzio as much as possible, which only makes the whole situation look that much more suspicious). Stoutland looks to possibly have a chance to survive this, and while many have already declared Pannunzio to effectively be a dead man walking in Tuscaloosa (which I suspect will probably prove true in the end), for the record we'll expressly reserve judgment on that and give them the benefit of the doubt for the time being.
In any event, when asked about the subject today, Saban really did not mince words. Money quote on the matter:
If they did anything wrong, I'm sure they'll get the appropriate punishment.
But we're going to continue to control and manage what we do in our organization and do it correctly, and that's basically all we can be concerned about. I don't think anything else needs to be said.
And that succinctly sums it up. If either Stoutland or Pannunzio committed violations, they will be punished accordingly, and by extension they will be terminated for cause if said violations are sufficiently severe. In effect, that's the institutional response and the manner in which UA will shield itself from any potential fallout, as should be the case. No individual is bigger than the university, and accordingly the university is not going to fall on the sword for the sake of any one individual. UA itself did nothing wrong here, and can only get itself substantively involved in this fiasco by an administrative failure on the back-end, and clearly that will not be allowed to happen. Stoutland and Pannunzio will likely get the benefit of the doubt for now, but if it becomes necessary at some point to wash the institutional hands clean of them, expect UA to do so and move forward without them.
Meanwhile, in actual football news, fall practice continued in Tuscaloosa this afternoon with the fourteenth day of fall camp. The heat continues to be brutal, and at least somewhat in response to that the practice session this afternoon was moved inside to the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility. Understandably players have to be exhausted at this point after some seventeen practice sessions, most of which were in 100+ degree heat, during the past two weeks, and with the second scrimmage of fall camp this upcoming Saturday, a temporary break from the heat must be a welcomed reprieve for the weary players.
Dont'a Hightower continues to make progress as he recovers from his broken hand. After sporting a bulky cast since undergoing surgery last week, Hightower wore a smaller wrap on his hand this afternoon, and by all accounts his recovery is progressing as hoped. With his latest progress, he may participate fully in the scrimmage this upcoming Saturday.
In other injury news, Trent Richardson is still sporting a figurative factory of tape on various parts of his left leg. Eddie Lacy continues to wear some sort of protective brace wrapping over his right shoulder. Damion Square still has the eye patch in place, and Alex Watkins is still using his knee brace. Brandon Ivory (knee sprain), Arie Kouandjio (knee), and Dre Kirkpatrick (leg bruise) may miss a couple of days with various bumps, bruises, and mild sprains, but none of those injuries are expected to keep them out of action for any meaningful time. Several other players have various bumps and bruises, as would be expected this time of year, but all are nevertheless participating fully and it seems that the black no-contact jersey has effectively become a thing of the past.
Duron Carter has still not be cleared academically by UA Admissions, and unfortunately there is a growing concern that Carter may never make it in. While it would be nice to dismiss such concerns as baseless pessimism, admittedly there is a great deal of concern here, and given the length of time this process is taking it should come as a surprise to no one if Carter indeed does not qualify academically. Interestingly enough, though, his father, Cris Carter, was in attendance at practice today. I'll let the commentariat speculate on what that means, if anything. Either way, hope for the best on Carter, but be firmly aware of the fact that this may not end as we all hope.
Alabama will return to the practice fields tomorrow afternoon.