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Sep 18, 2002

Tide fans angered over outcome

Featuring: Robert T. Cunningham

By IAN GUERIN 
BIRMINGHAM POST-HERALD 


Alabama fans will continue to be Crimson Tide supporters, regardless of what the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee announced Tuesday morning. 

Jim Givan, president-elect of the University of Alabama Alumni Association, said he didn't expect UA to get relief from NCAA sanctions on Tuesday, although he still doesn't believe the original ruling was just. 

"The extent of fairness is in the eye of the person who holds the hammer. And the NCAA certainly holds the hammer in this case," Givan said. "They consider their verdict was fair and equitable. We wouldn't have appealed if we didn't disagree with that. I don't consider it fair, but they determine fairness. We don't." 

Tuesday's decision finalized a February decision to strip 21 scholarships during the next three years, as well as ban the Tide from postseason play this season and in 2003. The school is also on probation for the next five years — meaning another major offense could lead to the temporary dissolution of the program. 

Alabama officials appeared before the Infractions Appeals Committee Aug. 17 in Chicago, lobbying to overturn the restrictions imposed by the NCAA's Committee on Infractions. 

That final decision angered many. The lack of a bowl bid for the next two seasons will potentially hurt school and conference revenue, but it also affected some alumni perceptions of the NCAA. 

David Chandler, the alumni's East Tennessee Chapter president, said his anger is directed at the NCAA. 

"I'm disgruntled," Chandler said. "You can't fight City Hall. I didn't think the NCAA was going to self-impose anything on itself — make itself look bad. They need to be investigated to clean house. Their sanctions that they come up with aren't ever the same." 

The beliefs of Chandler, Givan or any other Tide fan are inconsequential at this point, as the Infractions Appeals Committee has rendered its final verdict. That leaves the future, where many fans already are looking. 

Without the possibility of any bowl game appearances during the next two seasons, and with a scholarship disadvantage compared with the other 11 Southeastern Conference programs, Alabama fans are trying to adjust, at least temporarily, to an uphill battle. 

"It doesn't change the way they play, so it shouldn't change the way we support them," Alabama sophomore Kelse Henderson said. "I think a lot of people were expecting something different from the appeal." 

Despite the cut in scholarship numbers, some Alumni members, like Jefferson County Chapter President Larry Newman, don't think Tide Coach Dennis Franchione will have a problem, citing the 110-year tradition of Tide football. 

Overcoming the scholarship restrictions, the bowl ban and the probation could make Franchione's recruiting more difficult, but Givan said this could reinforce the foundation of the university and its fans. 

"The long-term benefits of this will make us a stronger institution, and we are going to do things right," Givan said. "Our active alumni base is increasing as we speak, in spite of non-bowl game participation and what others might perceive as negative at the university and the football program. When times are considered to be bad, people rally."

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