Barring an appeal, the NCAA will put Alabama on single-secret probation for three years and force the Crimson Tide to vacate 21 football wins from the 2005-07 seasons because several players used their textbook money to obtain free books for other students. Wow. Nothing strikes a blow for truth and justice like an all-out assault on
That isn't to say that Alabama's football program deserved a stiffer penalty in this case. Unlike when the Crimson Tide purchased a defensive tackle like a heifer at a livestock auction at the beginning of this decade, this crime didn't merit severe sanctions. The currently-on-appeal case of widespread academic fraud at Florida State might have, but the Seminoles lost a few scholarships and wouldn't give a flip about the wins they have to vacate except for the fact that those wins belong to
Like New Mexico this year and New Jersey in 2007, it seems the NCAA has banned the death penalty. For the nation's marquee programs, 25-to-life probably is out as well. Stripping a handful of scholarships over three or four years and forcing the vacation of wins, the NCAA disciplinary equivalent of serving a 30-day jail sentence on weekends, is about the harshest penalty the once-feared Committee on Infractions will hand down to a name-brand football program.
So forget bowl bans. Forget the TV ban, the NCAA's version of the atomic bomb. NCAA leaders, representatives of the schools themselves, understand now that it's bad for business to slaughter the cash cows, even if some of those cows occasionally cheat on tests or take money from agents.
Let's hop in the time machine and travel back to 1987.
• They could play only seven games, none at home.
• They would be allowed 15 scholarships.
• They were allowed only five assistant coaches.
• They were banned from television and from bowls.
SMU didn't even bother playing in 1988, choosing instead to field a roster of freshmen and practice for 1989.
Now, just imagine if the NCAA issued even one of those penalties to USC as a result of the Bush investigation. The heads of programming at ESPN/ABC and Fox Sports Net would suffer simultaneous heart attacks. If the Pac-10 was in the midst of negotiating a new TV deal, it would have to take significantly less money, hurting the conference's other nine schools. The same would go for a similar penalty against Alabama. In fact, the money involved has grown so much that had the
Shortly before the NCAA revealed the penalties, a reporter from