CFB: NCAA denies Alabama's appeal of sanctions
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The NCAA has denied Alabama's appeal of a ruling vacating 21 football victories from 2005-07 and records from three other sports for widespread violations involving free textbooks.
The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee announced Tuesday that the Committee on Infractions' ruling in June 2009 stands. Alabama President Robert E. Witt expressed disappointment with the "inconsistent decision."
Alabama had argued that no other case involving textbooks had resulted in vacated victories and that the penalties were "so excessive as to constitute an abuse of discretion." The NCAA vacated the football wins, one postseason win for men's tennis and several individual and team records in men's and women's track.
The NCAA countered in the decision released Tuesday, stating that "two cases are seldom exactly alike and that the Committee on Infractions must have latitude to tailor the penalties to the specific facts of each case."
The Alabama case involved 201 athletes in 16 sports who obtained textbooks they weren't entitled to under their scholarships, including 22 "intentional wrongdoers" in football, track and tennis who knowingly exploited the system to get books for others.
"The Appeals Committee acknowledged that their decision in our case is not consistent with the NCAA's prior textbook and vacation-of-wins cases, which was the heart of UA's appeal," Witt said in a statement. "Despite that acknowledgment, however, the Appeals Committee did not find an abuse of discretion. We are disappointed by the committee's inconsistent decision given the negative impact the decision has on hundreds of uninvolved student-athletes and their coaches."
Alabama must vacate all 10 wins from the 2005 season — including the Cotton Bowl victory over Texas Tech — all six wins in 2006 and the first five in 2007, when the textbook violations were discovered, leading to the suspension of five players before the Tennessee game. Mike Shula was the Crimson Tide's coach in 2005 and 2006, before Nick Saban took over the program and led the Tide to the national championship last season.
Alabama was placed on three years probation in June and fined $43,900 in addition to the vacated records and wins. The university did not appeal the other penalties.
"We're very disappointed because the Committee missed an excellent opportunity to follow its precedent set in recent cases, the precedent we followed due to the nature of the case," Alabama athletic director Mal Moore said.
He noted that the university has corrected the process that failed to stop the violations.
"We are eager to move forward while continuing to build a program that not only is successful on the field, but also reflects the values of our university," Moore said.
Alabama had also argued that its cooperation with the NCAA was not factored into the penalties. The appeals panel noted that the Infractions Committee's public report noted that cooperation several times.
The vacated football wins include:
—2005: Middle Tennessee, Southern Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah State, Mississippi State, and Texas Tech (Cotton Bowl).
—2006: Hawai'i, Vanderbilt, Louisiana-Monroe, Duke, Mississippi, and Florida International.
—2007: Western Carolina, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Houston, and Mississippi.
The penalties don't affect Alabama's wins over Tennessee or against Colorado in the Independence Bowl in 2007.