On second thought: please step away from your respective ledges. There's a whole lot of banter in the main thread, but I wanted to put some of the big points in one place for easy reference.
First, a preface: if you're a fan of another team, please recognize one fact: we don't care. We don't care what you think about this, how you think it compares to your current troubles, or care to commiserate with you at all. Feel free to excuse yourself to fornicate with an angry badger.
Second: the party happened after the BCS Title game. You can tell your gloating Texas buddies two things: 1) 37-21 and 2) This is what happens to teams with NFL-grade talent -- they become agent targets and they win national championships, comfort them with the notion that they'll probably win another one . . . some day.
Third: All available evidence right now suggests that THIS IS NOT AN INSTITUTIONAL NCAA INFRACTION. It's not. This doesn't impact our probation, it doesn't give rise to repeat offender penalties. By itself, It's not something the NCAA can do a damn thing about, except...
Fourth: we could very easily have just lost Marcel Dareus. His career at Alabama could be over. Accept that and come to terms with it. Recognize that the "extra benefits" bylaws are not the same as the agent contact bylaws. They're both in play here, though. The extra benefits are what give rise to the things you're hearing about dollar amounts, payback, and suspension. If the NCAA determines that, because of those benefits or anything else, Dareus has made himself a professional athlete, he will never be reinstated. To wit (numbering messed up because SB Nation is stupid):
Bylaw 12 Guidelines.
- Amateurism Cases involving Student-Athletes Initially Enrolling at an NCAA Institution for the 2006-07 Academic Year or After.
- Philosophy Statement. The NCAA, as an amateur organization, separates itself from the professional model of athletics. In this separation, participation in athletics for individuals competing for NCAA Division I institutions or who wish to compete for a Division I institution should be motivated primarily by education and by the physical, mental and social benefits derived from such participation. An individual who engages in activities that clearly professionalizes him or her will be deemed permanently ineligible for Division I athletics. (February 2006)
- Standard. The individual's actions shall be reviewed under a "reasonable-person" standard to determine if those actions warrant the individual's eligibility not being reinstated for intercollegiate athletics. Individuals who engage in the following activities have crossed the threshold of professionalism and, thus, their eligibility will not be reinstated:
- Sign an agreement or contract that states the team is professional or the individual is a professional;
- Sign an agreement or contract that provides the individual with money above expenses (even if the money is never paid);
- Individual receives money above his or her expenses/individual has profited from his or her sport (i.e., could be in the form of cash payments, prize money, stipend);
- Individual consistently represents himself or herself as a professional athlete;
- Individual enters into written or verbal contract with an agent; or
- Individual accepts significant monetary benefits from an agent.
That last part -- "individual accepts significant monetary benefits" is the money quote. Unless Dareus entered into a contract with an agent, he'd actually need to receive "monetary benefits". Now, I've not read up on what that phrase specifically means to the NCAA, and the NCAA could easily say that having trips and parties paid for is a "monetary benefit", but that might not be the case, and even if it is, in light of six-figure bonuses being tossed around, it seems that a strong case could be made that a trip and a party aren't really all that "significant." If he crosses that line, however, there's absolutely no coming back.
Still: until we hear otherwise, it would be prudent to assume that Dareus won't be suiting up with the defending champs this fall.
Fifth: honestly, if you didn't see this coming, it might be time to cut down your Kool-Aid intake. When a team like North Carolina is getting popped (do they have a single player that could start at Alabama?), you know this is going to be a bumpy ride for teams with actual talent. One of the benefits of having a team full of studs is that agents want a piece and, until only very recently, they and most of their targets been operating with virtual impunity. Times, they are a changin', and there are going to be a bunch of players caught up in dragnets like this one while the agents (and hopefully players) get smarter about how they handle their business.
Finally: Prepare yourselves for the possibility that more players could wind up in Dareus's shoes. Trust that Saban and our world-class compliance office will see us through this storm, and we'll come out the other side of it just fine. It would hurt to lose Dareus, there's no doubt about that, but it ain't the end of the world.
In summary: 'Bama fans, calm down. Everyone else, go away.