Alabama Hit With NCAA Penalties
Friday, February 1st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) _ The NCAA banned Alabama from bowl games for two years Friday, cut scholarships and placed the storied football program once run by the late Bear Bryant on probation for five years because of a recruiting scandal.
The sanctioning organization said it considered giving the Crimson Tide the most severe punishment, the ``death penalty,'' but decided against it.
``They were absolutely staring down the barrel of a gun,'' said Thomas Yeager, chairman of the infractions committee. He described the case as one of the worst heard by the panel.
The university was accused of 11 major violations and five minor charges under two former coaches.
Alabama contested the two most publicized charges involving claims of boosters making five-figure payments to lure two recruits.
But it admitted some violations and imposed penalties on itself, including a reduction of 15 scholarships over three years and the temporary disassociation of three boosters it said were at the heart of the recruiting scandal.
The NCAA took those punishments and added more, reducing the number of football scholarships the school can award by 21 over three years. It also said the university would face tougher penalties if it did not permanently disassociate the boosters.
President Andrew Sorensen blamed the case on ``rogue boosters'' and said the university would appeal. The school had not proposed any ban on bowl games.
``It is our firm conviction that the additional penalties are not supported by violations acknowledged by the university or found by the committee,'' Sorensen said.
The NCAA began investigating Alabama in April 2000 for alleged violations that occurred mostly under former coach Mike DuBose, who was not charged with wrongdoing. None of the accusations involves current coach Dennis Franchione or his staff.
``The coaches, the players, and I now must roll up our sleeves and work that much harder to sustain and restore Crimson Tide football,'' Franchione said.
The university's response to NCAA charges last year contended that accusations of a $20,000 payment to prospect Kenny Smith in the mid-1990s fell outside the governing body's statute of limitations. Gene Stallings, who was coach at the time, also was not accused of wrongdoing.
Alabama officials also argued that the NCAA couldn't prove that high school coaches for Memphis prospect Albert Means received money to steer the defensive lineman to Alabama, or that any money was linked to Tide booster Logan Young.
But the NCAA said a booster agreed to give Means' coach $115,000 to get Means to sign with Alabama.
The NCAA also said three payments of $10,000 were made, but it wasn't clear if former Trezevant High School coach Lynn Lang ever delivered the money to Means.
Means signed with the Tide, but has since transferred to Memphis. Young, a Memphis businessman, was one of the boosters dissociated from the university. He has denied any wrongdoing in the recruiting of Means.
Alabama has severed ties with Young, Wendell Smith and Raymond Keller, though all have denied giving improper benefits to the recruits. The university will have no association with the boosters for periods ranging from five to 10 years.
Lang, meanwhile, was indicted last August on one count of conspiracy, two counts of traveling across state lines to promote bribery and six counts of using his official position to try to extort money and property.
Alabama's football program was placed on three years' probation in 1995 after All-American defensive back Antonio Langham admitted signing with a sports agent the morning after the Tide gained the national title with a Sugar Bowl win over Miami.
Langham then returned for his senior season. The NCAA stripped Alabama of 26 scholarships, forced the Tide to forfeit eight victories from 1993 and imposed a one-year postseason ban.
Alabama would later win an appeal, getting one year of probation lifted and nine scholarships restored.
The football program has struggled to recover from the blow, going 4-7 in 1997 and 3-8 in 2000 to force DuBose's resignation.
However, Alabama's basketball program avoided sanctions in 1999 following claims that a former assistant basketball coach, Tyrone Beaman, tried to create a slush fund for recruits. The NCAA praised Alabama's handling of the case.