In the University of Alabama's 67-page response to the NCAA allegations over the textbooks situation, we see that there were basically two violations. The first violation was that a few players were basically giving their books to friends, girlfriends, and other acquaintances, and the second violation was that players were basically receiving non-required textbooks and materials when they went to pick up their books at the SUPE store.
Here's the direct quotes on the first violation:
"The intentional wrongdoers -- [material here deleted] -- exploted the University's textbook distribution system for scholarship student-athletes to acquire texts and materials of a value greater than $100 for girlfriends, boyfriends, or other student-athletes." All of the texts and materials were returned at the end of the semester or if not, they were charged to, and recovered from, the student-athlete's receivables account, as was required by the University's textbook program. The investigation did not reveal that anyone converted the books or materials to cash by reselling the items, and did not reveal that anyone acquired items that were not academic in character (no iPods, no sweatshirts, etc.). These intentional wrongdoers knew that they were taking advantage of the University and its Supply Store. However, these student-athletes believed that because the textbooks were either returned to the Supply Store or charged to them if not returned, no NCAA rules were implicated by their conduct."
And here are the money quotes from the second type of infraction:
"During that examination, the University discovered the second type of infraction. Approximately [deleted number] student-athletes through no fault of their own had received the use of non-required textbooks and materials. These optional or recommended materials were often included with students' pre-packaged required materials, through either the confusion of the textbook issuance process during the "book rush" at the beginning of the semester, mistaken packaging by the bookstore employees, or confusion and discrepancies among syllabi for different courses and for sections of the same course."
"Some of these unintentional infractions are of less than $1 in value, the lowest being $0.35 for a test booklet. In fact, among the [deleted] unintentional violations, about [deleted] of those charges were for less than $50. "
"All of the student-athletes who had eligibility remaining [Editor's comment: All of the student-athletes in question had eligibility remaining] have been required to make restitution."
I swear, this stuff is almost hard to believe. In the first case, these guys weren't even selling the books back, they were just giving them to friends, and as is my understanding were being charged for doing so (so no freebies were being given out to anyone). If anything, it seems like they were basically giving their books to friends and then paying back the university in return. And then the second "violation" seems to be more aligned with just a technical screw-up by the employees at the book store who just made some honest mistakes when bundling some of the textbooks and materials. Big whoop, a few guys got some test booklets they shouldn't have, or maybe some recommended reading for a class that was technically not required. Aside from the fact that the players received nothing that they really wanted in the first place -- I mean seriously, what kind of undergraduate football player wants the recommended reading for a class? -- they nevertheless paid the university back for every dime of it, in addition to all of the suspensions that they were given.
Perhaps I'm just being a stupid homer, but this is just hard to fathom how this can be considered a "major" infraction. Could you possibly get any more minor and nitpicky stuff than this? All I can say is that if the NCAA gives us a serious penalty over this junk, we all ought to go to Indianapolis and riot.