This is the fifth installment of my "Top 10 Bama Stories of 2006" series, which I hope to have finished before 2007 is in the history books. What can I say, grad school eats up a lot of time. Previous installments: Cotton Bowl victory over Texas Tech, Jean Felix's 31-point performance against Marquette, Ashley Miles wins 4th individual national title in gymnastics and baseball wins SEC championship have been covered so far.
As I mentioned earlier, not all of 2006's top stories were good stories...
I'll take a scoop of rocky road please
It came as quite a shock to the Bama nation when linebacker Juwan Simpson was arrested in May for marijuana possession, carrying a firearm without a license and receiving stolen property. Simpson was an Academic All-SEC performer as well as having already graduated (and was working on a second degree) and he had received community service awards. He was also on the Lott Trophy watchlist, an award that takes character into account.
The incident became the intense focus of the entire state during the offseason. Alabama fans wondered "why" and Auburn fans delighted in the fall of one of Alabama's star players. The receiving stolen property charge was dropped for lack of evidence, the marijuana possession was going to be erased from his record due to his agreement to participate in a drug program and he wound up having to pay $300 in fines and court costs for the possession of a firearm without a license charge.
A debate raged about whether or not Simpson should even be allowed to remain on the team and if he did stay on the roster, there were wide ranging opinions about what the punishment should be. Coach Mike Shula's silence about the punishment just fueled anger and increased speculation about the incident. As the season approached, speculation grew and grew about Simpson's possible punishment. He fanned public anger again when he responded to a reporter's question about what punishment would Simpson give himself if he were the coach. Simpson responded that he would buy himself an ice cream cone.
On opening day, Simpson played against Hawai'i. He was eventually suspended for a game against Louisiana-Monroe. Shula revealed that he suspended players for off season incidents in the order they got into trouble and didn't suspend them all for the same game since it would be unfair to the team.