skip to main content
Sep 18, 2002

UA officials not off hook

Featuring: Robert T. Cunningham

Commentary by RAY MELICK 

TUSCALOOSA — On the one hand, it doesn't make any sense. How do you penalize the University of Alabama for rules violations the institution is not charged with? How do you praise the institution for its absolute cooperation, then come back and hammer the athletics department as if it had stonewalled every step of the way? 

That's the problem with the NCAA's final ruling on the Alabama case. There is no argument here that the penalty did not fit the crime; it did. The problem is that the university was not formally charged for what it was found guilty of, yet it was punished for what it was never charged with. 

Nowhere in the NCAA report does it say the University of Alabama was found guilty of lack of institutional control, or even failure to monitor, two of the most serious accusations the NCAA can levy. In fact, nowhere in the report will you find any major charges leveled against any university personnel. 

And yet the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee agreed Tuesday with the Committee on Infractions, which in February punished the Alabama football program in a way previously reserved only for those institutions found guilty of lack of institutional control. 

On the other hand, it makes perfect sense. The heart of the NCAA's entire case against Alabama is best described as a booster case, and can be summed up in this one sentence from Tuesday's report: "The Appeals Committee agreed with the Infractions Committee that in this case, the athletics representatives were 'not typical representatives' due to their 'favored access and insider status' and that this favored access and insider status created 'greater university responsibility for any misconduct in which they engage.'" 

In other words, Alabama officials should have known. In fact, you could say the NCAA Committee on Infractions believes Alabama officials did know what former "boosters" Logan Young and Ray Keller (in particular) were up to. Not only does the NCAA say Alabama officials probably knew, the Infractions Committee basically said that, while it praised the school for its booster education program in the 1999 case, it believed the athletics department could not be trusted to try to corral the activities of Young and Keller. 

In fact, one booster even admitted as much, telling me, "Let's say I'm guilty of what they say I'm guilty of. How did I know what athletes to give money to if no one from the inside was telling me?" 

The logic is inescapable, and yet it has somehow escaped those bright, penetrating minds of the NCAA. 

So why the hypocrisy? Why act as if the NCAA was doing Alabama some kind of favor in not laying blame on an actual employee of the school, whether past or present? 

And speaking of hypocrisy, are we really expected to feel sorry for the University of Alabama athletics department? 

The school's proposed $41 million budget for the 2002-03 fiscal year includes an expected loss of $2.2 million in revenue because of NCAA penalties (the schools' share of the conference bowl money distribution). 

At the same time, the school asked for $400,000 from the board of trustees to pay for the fees incurred in its appeal of the NCAA sanctions. It also accepted a 13th game in Hawaii this year, a game that will, even with the hotel rooms and airfare arrangements that the University of Hawaii can provide, still cost the Alabama athletics department at least $200,000. 

And there is this little matter of the 10-year, $15 million contract being negotiated with Coach Dennis Franchione (which still hasn't been agreed on, by the way). 

Let's see — you're going to lose more than $2 million a year for the next two years, but you're willing to spend what some might consider a frivolous $600,000 on an appeal and a 13th football game that you're treating like a bowl trip, plus give your head football coach a substantial guaranteed raise? 

That hardly sounds like an athletics department that is overly concerned about a heavy price to be paid by NCAA sanctions. 

So Alabama goes on. The administration can claim it has been exonerated, that it was the victim of "rogue boosters" over which it had no control. 

Unfortunately, at the heart of it all is a case in which the Alabama administrators cannot claim innocence. The NCAA is not talking about thousands of boosters, or even hundreds. It's really talking about only two men who were not only well-known but made welcome within the university administration, one of whom was a frequent guest of not only athletics directors (past and present) but also university presidents at various official functions over the years. 

Forget secret witnesses and the statute of limitations. The NCAA might not have had the courage to lay the blame at the feet of any current or former University of Alabama administrators, but no one is fooled. 

Former university President Andrew Sorensen and Athletics Director Mal Moore may claim these things were beyond their control, so here's a little tip: 

How do you control rogue boosters? For starters, stop inviting them to dinner. 

Ray Melick's column appears each Monday, Wednesday and Saturday in the Birmingham Post-Herald. 

Lawyer Involved

Related Case

Pro Bono Defense of Crimson Tide against NCAA Sanctions

University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

Robert Cunningham led the firm's pro bono representation of the University of Alabama in its 2002 fight against the NCAA sanctioning of the Crimson...

Related News

Sep 30, 2002

Infractions appeal: University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

The NCAA News  The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee has upheld all findings and penalties involving the football program at the...

Sep 19, 2002

UA legal appeal unlikely

Officials say it’s time to move on; school won’t file lawsuit  By Steve Reeves  TUSCALOOSA | Univ...

Sep 18, 2002

Tide fans angered over outcome

By IAN GUERIN  BIRMINGHAM POST-HERALD  Alabama fans will continue to be Crimson Tide supporters, regardless of what the NCAA Division ...

Sep 18, 2002

Tide gets no relief from NCAA

The Birmingham News  STEVE KIRK and STEVE IRVINE  News staff writers  TUSCALOOSA An exhaustive investigation into the University o...

Sep 18, 2002

Players: time to move on

By GREG WALLACE  BIRMINGHAM POST-HERALD  TUSCALOOSA — Over. Finished. Done. No question, no doubt, nothing more to say.  Th...

Sep 18, 2002

Booster says he is victim in probe

By IAN GUERIN  BIRMINGHAM POST-HERALD  Logan Young, the former University of Alabama booster accused by the NCAA of paying money to a h...

Sep 18, 2002

Arguments fell on deaf ears

GREG WALLACE  BIRMINGHAM POST-HERALD  TUSCALOOSA — At every turn, the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee had an answer.  Ea...

Sep 18, 2002

Alabama's reaction to NCAA appeal

The Crimson White (online)  By Alex Merritt  Assistant Sports Editor  September 18, 2002  The NCAA Committee on Infractions a...

Sep 18, 2002

Alabama exhausts appeals of penalty

By THOMAS MURPHY  Sports Reporter Mobile Register  TUSCALOOSA -- University of Alabama officials and the university's legal team fumed ...

Sep 17, 2002

University of Alabama responses to the appeal decision  Statements concerning today's NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee Ruling, from University of Alabama Interim President J....

Sep 17, 2002

Sanctions stand

By Cecil Hurt  TUSCALOOSA | The NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee on Tuesday pointedly rejected the University of ...

Sep 17, 2002

NCAA upholds sanctions against Alabama

from  Associated Press  TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The NCAA rejected Alabama's request that it ease sanctions against the football pr...

Sep 17, 2002

NCAA Division I infractions appeals committee upholds penalties against University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa  INDIANAPOLIS---The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee upheld all findings and penalties involving the footbal...

Sep 17, 2002

Former University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, assistant football coach public infractions appeals committee report

NCAA news release  CONTACT:  Terry Don Phillips  NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee  INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA  This repo...

Sep 17, 2002

Appeals committee does not come to rescue

By Tom Farrey  As a vast, member-driven organization, the NCAA can be an impossible creature to fathom. Initiatives ebb and f...

Aug 25, 2002

UA didn't get equal protection under the law from the NCAA  Any discussion of the University of Alabama’s appeal of the sanctions handed down by the NCAA for football recruit...

Aug 23, 2002

UA attacks sanctions as unfair

Alabama appeal based on contention that heavy sanctions are unprecedented and inappropriate for the violations committed  By THOMAS MURPHY&n...

Aug 23, 2002

Wrangling with confidentiality and credibility

By Cecil Hurt  There has already been far too much “death penalty" rhetoric connected with the University of ...

Aug 17, 2002

Tide states its case

School will release information about NCAA appeal next week  By PAUL GATTIS  Huntsville Times Sports Staff  TUS...

Aug 17, 2002

Still uphill for UA

Mobile attorney Robert Cunningham feels Alabama's appeal of NCAA punishment went well but says school still faces 'difficult challenge' in getting...

Aug 16, 2002

UA to Appeal for Leniency

Alabama officials get long-awaited hearing before NCAA appeals panel today with goal of reducing sanctions  By THOMAS MURPHY  Sports Re...

Aug 16, 2002

Alabama lawyers say hearing went well

By Cecil Hurt  Sports Editor presented by the Tuscaloosa News  CHICAGO | Robert "Bobo" Cunningham, who served as l...

Aug 15, 2002

Alabama seeks final judgment

STEVE KIRK and STEVE IRVINE  News staff writers  The Birmingham News  A University of Alabama defense team leaves today for Chica...

Aug 14, 2002

NCAA Hearing Won’t Provide Easy Answers  By Cecil Hurt  Preparations are complete. The long practice sessions and strategy meetings are done. A daunting task re...

Aug 04, 2002

Hope for Bama?

By THOMAS MURPHY  Sports Reporter  While the Mobile lawyer handling the University of Alabama's appeal has conceded it will be tough f...

Feb 19, 2002

UA Adds Attorney for NCAA fight

By Cecil Hurt  TUSCALOOSA - The University of Alabama has added an attorney from one of the state’s most noted l...

Feb 19, 2002

Prominent Attorney to Take on Bama Case

Robert Cunningham Jr. says he looks forward to arguing appeal of sanctions against Crimson Tide football program  By JOHN CAMERON  Ass...

Feb 19, 2002

Prominent Attorney Joins Tide’s Appeal

from the Montgomery Advertiser Digital Edition  MOBILE – A lawyer known for getting a record $3.5 billion in a case against Exxon Mobi...

Feb 18, 2002

Robert Cunningham, Jr. Joins Tide Legal Team for Appeal  TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- University of Alabama President Andrew Sorensen announced today that Robert Cunningham, Jr., of the Mobile...

Better Business Bureau Accredited Business

1-251-471 6191 TOLL FREE 1-800-472-6191

Cunningham Bounds LLC Circle Logo
Website developed and designed by Cubicle Fugitive