Thursday, October 25, 2007

SEC: End of the Enforcement Bad Old Days?

Columnist Gentry Estes at the Press Register in Alabama seems to think so:

University handling textbook probe correct way

Thursday, October 25, 2007

TUSCALOOSA -- Cloudy skies and chilly temperatures have settled over the University of Alabama's campus since Saturday's emphatic 41-17 football victory over Tennessee.

Maybe it's just another coincidence.

Maybe it's also a coincidence that Ball State was punished by the NCAA for textbook violations two days before Alabama's discovery that five football players violated institutional policy in the receipt of textbooks.

And maybe, like Alabama has insisted, it's only a coincidence that NCAA officials were in town on routine business last week when it occurred. . . .

Alabama now approaches the possibility of more NCAA trouble (who would have thought textbooks could have been a cause?), but don't overlook a reason for optimism for the future in all this.

The school's handling of the textbook situation to this point has been notably improved from situations in the recent past.

A quick, decisive internal investigation was called to examine every athlete to see who may have violated NCAA rules by receiving extra benefits. The president's office has been involved from the start. The media have been informed at each step.

Football coach Nick Saban uttered words Tuesday that reporters here have never heard him say: "You'll probably know about it as soon as I do." That line explains best who is calling the shots, and it is not anyone in the football program. . . .

No, this is not your father's Alabama. Or even your older brother's.

Suspending five football players, including two offensive line starters (on the eve of the Tennessee game, of all weeks) proved that the university is now serious about rule enforcement.

In many ways, this is the new reality of Commissioner Mike Slive's Southeastern Conference. There are to be no secrets, and it has almost become unwise for compliance offices not to report regular secondary violations.

"When we have seen compliance departments that we don't believe are up to standard," Slive said this summer, "we are not bashful about letting that institution know at the highest levels."

The SEC likes to boast of the decline in NCAA trouble during the past few years. Slive added that his office is in "constant communication" with the compliance departments in each of its 12 athletics departments.

This particular situation at Alabama may get worse before it gets better. The school headed into this sweeping probe without knowing exactly what it would find, which paints administrators into a corner. If more misdeeds are discovered, they must be dealt with swiftly and openly.

It remains to be seen whether Alabama is ahead of the curve where enforcement is concerned compared to its competitors in the SEC, where rule-breaking has been endemic. Is this the beginning of a trend? Or will Alabama, and the SEC as a whole revert to type?

No comments: