Someone asked about some Bama history a few days ago – Chapter 13 "Fran" and Chapter 14 "NCAA Investigation Continues"
This is a brief on how Alabama fell from grace in the general timeframe of the 1992 Championship thru Coach Fran with some earlier history thrown in for reference. It sheds light (true or false – that is up to the individual) on what happened to bring down the Tide and who all was involved. It definitely helps explain the animosity toward Phil Fulmer. I didn’t write any of the brief and don’t personally know anyone mentioned or attributed. I am not responsible for any typo, spelling, formatting, or whitespace errors. Nor am I responsible for any judgment errors, innuendo, false allegations, heresy, rumor mongering, slander, defamation, or character assassination. I just happened to cut and paste it from a Bama message forum (and I don’t remember which one) way back in the day and thought I might want hang on to it. I am only responsible for segmenting the document into chapters to make it easier to re-post as several RBR Fanpost. As with all Fanpost the content is not approved, condoned, sponsored, attributed, or verified by RBR or SBN and any of their writers, editors, or content providers. Buckle up this is a very long read. – WM58
Posted by clay3482 on February 27, 2004 at 20:59:25: The Fall Of the Tide
This is only a compilation of public information put in one place so that the truth could come finally out. Some source articles came from MAJOR news outlets and some from Internet Message Board Archives. I will try to credit everyone at the end of the "brief" in Appendix A. This is a rough draft however, so if you see something I missed or in the case of internet posters if you would like your Real Name instead of your Internet Handle credited please let me know.
Thanks to all who have helped! Roll Tide Forever!
Enjoy The Brief Clay
Fran Chapter 13
What Fran found was a mess of giant proportions. While he did a marvelous job of fixing the football problems, he also was ill suited emotionally for what he was to face off the football field. The first thing Fran found when he got here besides the obvious lack of discipline was that he had 20 or so academic cases on his hands. I think his handling of Strength and Conditioning, the classroom, leadership problems and many of the hard cases left by his predecessors is well documented. But if anything can encapsulate his first few months here it was that he was convinced that from a character, work ethic and talent standpoint that he had inherited a number of hopeless cases. His building job was going to be steeper than advertised.
He also had to get the sorry habits out and bad influences away from the players in order to rebuild them. He spent a good part of his first year trying to get some of the posse's around the players who were associated with the previous group away from his players. Simply because we changed coaches doesn't mean that the players relationships with their old coaches or other "friends of the program" had ended. And by friends of the program I don't mean boosters or $100 handshakes. Just people who might undermine what Fran was trying to build by sowing dissension and feeding the sense of entitlement that got us in the mess to begin with.
In retrospect, it's clear he adopted a defensive attitude from the time he got here. I believe now that he had read too many horror stories by the national media about how intolerant Alabama fans were and maybe never fully understood that we were so low when we got here that we had embraced him quickly like no coach since Bryant (maybe other than Coach Stallings). He thought we might turn on him at any moment.
The other interesting thing about Fran was that he never really got close to anyone in the alumni community or the University as far as I can tell. Probably Mal was as close to him as anyone and I think he was even a mystery to Mal at the end. Part of this was a result of his tireless work ethic and focus. But again, in retrospect, one would think that it was also because of some fundamental level of mistrust of the Alabama family. He said and did all the right things, but his attachments to the University and its people remained at best superficial. It's easy to see now how it was so easy to pick up and leave in the absence of any deep ties to anyone in our community.
To say that Fran was a tightly wound spring is an understatement. Furthermore, he was most assuredly a glass half empty person. Honestly, I think without his constant crying about facilities and other issues some things that needed to be done would have never happened. His complaining and our delicate situation gave Mal the stick to get what limited things he could out of Rose Administration. Unfortunately for Fran it was usually a half measure that stopped short of the commitment he wanted. Add to that a concern about the backward nature of our Athletic Department and Fran had all the ingredients for a rationalization that we weren't committed to winning.
NCAA Investigation Continues Chapter 14
In the meanwhile, the investigation moved forward. While they turned over every conceivable rock, the fact is as late as that summer, little had turned up to corroborate the tale from Memphis. What was clear is that Coach Rich Johanningmeier the investigator was out to nail us and particularly Logan Young at any cost and wouldn't stop until he got it. Two well documented cases of Rich Johanningmeier telling Logan and later another "booster" that he didn't care about Tennessee are absolutely true. He also exploited tensions between numerous people by claiming falsely in some cases that a particular individual had accused them of something - hoping that all the rats would turn on each other and run out of the bushes. He also accused anyone even remotely connected to UA who had done business with Logan as being his bag man. The outcome of the case was already determined. The only issue was how to get there.
I now believe wholeheartedly that the course of the investigation - from its instigation to it's conclusion, was dictated by Tennessee folks. I also believe that the relationships between the NCAA enforcement staff and some folks in an around the Tennessee orbit were absolutely beyond any ethical bounds. My one great hope about Ivy and Ronnie's lawsuit is that all of this comes out and the level of corruption at the NCAA is exposed for the world to see.
That being said, the salient point in all this mess was the same old tension that I discussed earlier between the Sorensen/Marsh anti-jock - clean out the good ole boys group - and the football program and culture as whole was guiding the University's conduct of the investigation. No one will ever know, but I think now that Sorensen made a calculation along with Gene Marsh that if they could mitigate the NCAA penalties and get rid of Logan, that they would finally break the back of the football crowd. Starting from the assumption that we were guilty, it's no wonder that we start talking about secret witnesses, Marsh aiding the NCAA by allowing it, and conceding charges against Logan without any real proof. It all makes sense in light of their attitude toward Logan and others who had traditionally supported the program, Let the NCAA accomplish what you couldn't - run them off.
As for the SEC office's role in this whole affair, I really don't know. I'm sure there was aiding and abetting going on. Anyone can see that now. To what level of detail or extent of the machinations, I truly don't know. What I do know is that many folks who were close to the situation believed firmly that Roy Kramer had a major hand in dealing us the blow in the Langham affair and have no reason to doubt he played us again this time.
Probably the funniest thing I heard about the University's conduct of the investigation is that they wanted Logan to pony up a "donation" to the University to pay for the trouble he caused all the while getting ready to toss him over the transom. They weren't too proud to bleed him for money before they had to wash their hands of him.
When the letter arrived, it appeared that the plan was working. The University escaped any institutional charges and with it the assumption dominated that we could impose penalties that we could manage, avoid a crippling blow and toss the "bad guys" overboard. Our response was dictated along those parameters. Offer up the bad actors, ask forgiveness and put it to bed. Again, a gross miscalculation that the NCAA would be impervious to the publicity surrounding our case or the perception that we were as dirty as SMU in 86 and Oklahoma State in 88.
Meanwhile, Fran was indeed fixing the team. We all saw steady improvement in the last half of his first year. There is no doubt that the wheels started falling off Fran's wagon the moment the penalties were announced. Again, since no one ever got close to Fran, it's hard to know what went through his mind after the penalties were announced before signing day. Cecil Hurt's articles are probably the best insight you'll get on that matter. What is clear now is that either he didn't think he could ride out the probation or he didn't think we'd let him. Maybe he just didn't want to swim upstream anymore after doing it his whole career.
I do know either before or after the sanctions were announced he had already complained that he needed some scheduling relief - that he didn't want to go to Penn St. with 50 players and get his tail kicked. Maybe that was a very realistic attitude, but it also illustrates the level at which the sanctions ate at him. Add to that the constant barrage of dirty SEC recruiting which I don't know if he ever got used to, and you can see how his hole (at least in his mind) got deeper and deeper.
One thing the announcement of the sanctions did do was blow the final hole in Sorensen's bow. He and Marsh had handled the conduct of our response to the NCAA and when it blew up in their face they had nowhere to run. The immediate response from the Board Of Trustees, just like the rest of the fan base was total outrage. Everyone, including Sorensen, wanted to fight. And those lawyers who had originally volunteered their services to fight the thing were finally listened to. In the end, some Board Of Trustees members called in Bobo Cunningham for a consult on a Saturday on whether there was a case to be made for relief. Cunningham concluded that their was a case and even offered to work pro-bono when the subject of a fee was brought up. The feeling was now that we were finally going to fight back.
It didn't take Cunningham long to realize that we had thrown the baby out with the bathwater in ceding so much up front to the NCAA without challenge. Nonetheless, he mounted a brilliant defense. But in the end, it didn't matter. The NCAA had their backs to the wall on high profile case - there was no backing down.
At the same time, the Board Of Trustees knew we had to undertake some drastic steps to survive the sanctions. First was locking Fran down for life. Second was coming off the stalled facilities program and fund drive. Mal was green lighted to move fast on the facilities issue. Which he did. Sorensen's last stand came when he tried to limit the facilities program and was told in uncertain terms that it wouldn't be done half hearted and he needed to disappear. In fact, if you remember, he wasn't even at the roll out of that program.
Sorensen had been trying to promote his way out of the University for years. The board as well as the Chancellor had seen enough by now so a mutual split was inevitable. Honestly, at the time no one really believed he could find a job but were more than willing to help. Luckily for all parties South Carolina fell for him and hired him.
As for when Fran decided to hit the road for sure I don't know. I was told in October by a friend that a prominent Aggie had said that they were hiring our coach. I didn't believe it. Much has been made of the contract issue and whether the University botched anything. Truthfully, they offered him a blank check, and in large part anything else he wanted to stay. I think he was gone for months before that and nothing we could have done would have altered that course of events. He did a marvelous job on so many fronts. But in the end, I think he was overwhelmed to be at Alabama and simply cracked under pressure that wasn't even there.