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NCAA Sanctions: Believe it or Not, This is a Good Thing

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..or, If Dennis Dodd Started Rubbing Rogaine Into His Scalp Instead of Stupid Juice He Might Actually See Some Results


In the wake of the NCAA's announcement (and last night's leak) that Alabama football will lose zero scholarships and instead is forced to "vacate" wins, various blogs and agencies have let their displeasure over the NCAA's meager slap on the wrist be known in no uncertain terms.  Deadspin thinks the penalties should hurt more while simultaneously admitting the offense is very minor (and thus so is the punishment!), while Suarian Sagacity isn't even that responsible kind, instead throwing out blanket condemnations that 'Bama Cheats, NCAA Say It Doesn't Care without also noting that the violations were minor and represented no competitive advantage on the field or in recruiting (unlike the secondary violations that are rampant in college football yet are never punished so long as they are reported).  And then there's Dennis Dodd:

In the ongoing dinner theater known as Being Alabama only the actors change. The roles remain the same.

Bear's School went on NCAA probation Thursday for the fourth time in 14 years. Something about a textbook scandal. The details aren't really important. There are major violations, but only because Alabama is to the rulebook what Michael Vick is to pit bulls. A constant, menacing threat.

First, why is it that the people who actually need to be constantly reminded that "Bear" is no longer with us aren't Alabama fans, despite the fact that Alabama fans are being constantly told "bahr is dayd, stop livin in da pass!!!11."  Alabama is "Bear's" school in the same way that it is Thomas's school and Wade's school and Scott's school and Stallings's school and Saban's school, not to mention Gilmer's and Starr's and Namath's and Stabler's and Newsome's and Oglivie's and Barker's and Prothro's and etc.  But more than that, Alabama is our school and our football team and last I checked we live in the present, so either figure out a way to insult us that's better than slinging tired, lazy gibes that require zero effort and cleverness or shut up.  See also the Michael Vick crack, which was old two years ago.  Next thing you know he'll be quoting lyrics from The Soft Parade in an effort to "get next to the young people."

Second, the details aren't really important?  I suppose they aren't when the details don't support your foolishly righteous indignation over a minor punishment for a minor offense.  True, this is the fourth time in 14 years that Alabama has been before the NCAA.  It is also true that this is the first of those four times where the infraction was a minor violation that the university discovered, investigated, rectified, and reported on it's own.  No agents were involved, no special secret witnesses gave testimony, no players were getting paid, no coaches, staff members, or administrators were in on the scam, and no competitive advantage was gained by the players' actions.  But considering any reasonable person with 1/4 of a functioning brain would look at those details and see Dennis Dodd for the ignorant blowhard that he is, it's no wonder the details aren't really important.

The question has become when aren't there major violations in Tuscaloosa? The latest penalties mean that 'Bama has been eligible to be an NCAA repeat offender since 1995. Alabama has been committing major violations while serving time for major violations.

One slip-up during the five-year repeat violator statute of limitations is considered serious. It makes a program eligible for the NCAA death penalty. At Alabama, they scoff. It's a Crimson and White Groundhog Day every day.

Well gee Dennis, I don't know, how about now?  This isn't a major violation in and of itself, it is only made major by the fact it happened within the NCAA's "repeat offender" window, a fact you are clearly acknowledging here.  Excuse us for scoffing at this one since, relatively speaking, a bunch of players, the vast majority of whom competed on teams the average Alabama fan didn't even know existed until this week, is small beer compared to the very real and very serious infractions the last go 'round.  Let's face it, we shouldn't be worried about these sanctions and furthermore we should actually be rather glad all of this happened.  Crazy thought right?  But let's look at it this way:

1. We've all bought into The Process, and this is just one more aspect of it.  We've spoken at length here about how Saban has taken on the herculean task of reshaping the culture of Alabama football, and the university's response to the situation is just more proof that the athletic department and administration are fully on board with building an elite, championship caliber program from top to bottom.  It's not just the coaches and players anymore, it's everyone from the president on down to the guy at the book store who has to do his part to make sure everything is running smoothly and there are no distractions that take away from what Alabama is trying to accomplish on the field.  When it was discovered by the bookstore that athletes were charging far more than they should, the situation was immediately investigated, steps were taken to find out who was involved, to fix the problem, and to make sure the violations were self reported quickly.  Given the severely nitpicky nature of the violation (honest mistake on the part of most of those involved and just plain old broke college kids figuring out a way to get free stuff on the part of the rest) and the ease in which the university could have simply fixed the problem and swept it under the rug, turning yourself in while fully aware the charges could fall within the "repeat offender" window and become a more serious violation than it actually is was probably the most difficult, but ultimately correct, thing to do.  

2. It caused a thorough investigation of the entire athletic department.

From Mal Moore's statement: (emphasis mine)

This case involves a failure in an isolated aspect of the program, and there is neither evidence nor allegations of other NCAA violations. No head coaches or assistant coaches of any sport, and no administrators were involved. No players gained financially or otherwise; no competitive advantage was gained; all of the books were returned.

If we take only one positive from this whole mess this should be it.

3. By being open with the NCAA and cooperating as fully as we did, it shows that Alabama has made a commitment to doing things the right way despite the possibly dire consequences.

Because of the institution's status as a repeat violator, the Committee on Infractions considered both a ban on postseason competition and the enhanced penalties for repeat violators.

Disturbing thoughts, I know, and thankfully ones you won't have to have again once you finish reading this post.  But the fact remains that, by self reporting and cooperating as we did, the NCAA Infractions Committee had to take that into account when determining the Tide's fate.  Committee chair Paul Dee commended the university in it's handling of the matter, and despite the hand wringing of Dodd and his ilk, Alabama comes off looking rather well despite having "Alabama", "NCAA", "violations", and "sanctions" all over the news over the last few days. 

As Dr. Witt noted, "the penalties imposed affect the past. They do not impact our future. They in no way affect the ability of our football team to compete fully."  Yes, we "got away" with this one, if putting yourself into a position to have to run the tightest ship imaginable until 2014 and slipping behind Southern Cal in the all time bowl wins column (at least in the NCAA record book) is "getting away" with anything.  But what's important to remember is that, even though we're still in the doghouse with the NCAA, this whole affair has not only helped to put the final nail in the coffin of the ancien regime that was Alabama football, but also showed that the people and, most importantly, principles are in place to make sure this sort of thing doesn't happen again.  Roll Tide.