Alabama makes such an inviting target, what with the houndstooth hats and the braying fans and the abject lack of moderation. And Bama’s most famous salaried employee is the glowering Coach Satan, who makes a mint and smiles never. There are those among us — heck, there are times when I’d have been one of them — who’d say nothing is too harsh for the haughty Crimson Tide.
But this one comes close. Forfeited games over textbooks that weren’t sold for profit? Sixteen programs — 16 of 21, if you’re counting — on probation over textbooks? Heck, at this point shouldn’t we be happy any school’s student-athletes are even interested in textbooks?
The guess is that the NCAA piled on because it tired of seeing those crimson blazers in its hearing room. Alabama forfeited eight victories (plus one tie, as if you can forfeit a non-win) back in 1995 after the violations involving Gene Jelks and his tape recorder and Antonio Langham and his agent. It got hit again with five years’ probation and a two-year bowl ban in 2002 for the Logan Young/Albert Means/Memphis fallout.
But this one didn’t involve money to a recruit or a player. This wasn’t even one of those Kiffin-esque secondary recruiting vioaltions. This one involved textbooks. And that’s surely why the NCAA huffed hard (ordering the 21 forfeits) but didn’t really follow through (no scholarship penalties). This probation was meant to embarrass Alabama for embarrassing the NCAA yet again, not to hamstring the Tide into the next decade.
Naturally, Tide fans won’t see it that way. Naturally, they’ll point to their orange-clad neighbor and moan, “How come Tennessee never gets nailed?” But Bama will just have to bite its tongue and be satisfied with having the better coach — and all its scholarships.