Alabama Has Committed NCAA Violation in T-Town Menswear Case
Based on the timestamps on photos that have been pointed out by SportsByBrooks here, there's really no argument that Alabama players Julio Jones, Trent Richardson, and Mark Ingram didn't "permit(s) the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind."
They 100% did this and allowed this to continue for months, throughout, at least, the entirety of the 2010 football season. Anyone not wearing Crimson colored glasses can see this clearly.
Meanwhile Alabama continues to assert -- as recently as yesterday afternoon when asked by OKTC -- that no NCAA violation of any sort has occurred. That's despite the growing mushroom cloud surrounding T-Town Menswear. At some point this has to start to make Alabama fans really nervous, why isn't Alabama -- at the very least -- acknowledging that this is a secondary violation and reporting it to the NCAA? Especially since the university just reported a slew of secondary violations in early July.
The answer is simple: Alabama is still trying to keep this story quiet. That's why the university didn't want to acknowledge that it had disassociated Albetar. Instead of releasing this information when OKTC broke the story, Alabama chose to assert it had sent a form-letter cease and desist missive with a scrawled pen notation at the top of the letter as an address. Why would Bama keep this disassociation quiet? Because the university has never disassociated an individual in its history who has not been guilty of breaking NCAA rules.
Whether or not the players can be proven to have accepted any improper benefit is another question that would lead to more substantial penalties, but at this point in time there is zero doubt that an NCAA violation centered around T-Town Menswear has occurred and that Bama players didn't have to accept anything to break that rule.
Now, here's the first question that arises subsequent to that violation, has Alabama ever declared these players ineligible and notified the NCAA of the violation?
According to Alabama the answer is no because they never notified the NCAA of any of these issues. Indeed, that lack of NCAA notification is what most troubled numerous high-ranking SEC sources that OKTC has discussed this situation with in recent days.
Why does that lack of NCAA notification matter?
Because once a player infraction occurs a player has to be ruled ineligible before he can be ruled eligible again. Recall Cam Newton's 24 hour "ineligibility" that cleansed his wrongdoing in the eyes of the NCAA. That action was a procedural formality. A formality that Alabama has never undertaken in this case.
Mark Jones, the co-chair of the collegiate sports practice, at Ice Miller, explained this process to OKTC, "When a violation occurs the student-athlete reinstatement process kicks in," he said.
The school notifies the NCAA of the infraction that has occurred -- in this case the permission of the players to allow their autographed materials, photos, and apparel to be used to advertise, recommend, or promote -- and the NCAA then determines what an appropriate punishment should be.
Given that so far this is simply an issue of display, if Alabama had been forthcoming with the NCAA reinstatement process penalties probably would have been relatively minor for the impacted student-athletes. But since Alabama never notified the NCAA of the infraction, according to Jones the NCAA would examine a variety of factors in assessing this situation. Namely, the state of mind of the student athlete. That is did the players know of the use of their names, how long were they aware of that use, and, significantly, did the university know of this use as well?
In this case we know the players knew of the use of their names because they visited the stores on multiple occasions with their images being used -- indeed they were even photographed posing in front of the store displays -- the use went on for months, and the university knew of the use. We know the university knew of the use because of the cease and desist letter and the subsequent disassociation of Tom Albetar, the owner of T-Town Menswear.
This knowledge on behalf of the university could work to Alabama's severe disadvantage since all the players in question, among them Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, and Trent Richardson, continued to play without any acknowledgement of a rules violation despite the university's knowledge of their circumstances and that existing rules violation.
This raises two more interesting questions about Alabama's internal investigation:
1. Was Alabama not aware of the extent of the relationship betwen Albetar and Crimson Tide players?
2. Did Alabama, currently on probation and under NCAA repeat violator status for 15 of the past 17 years, attempt to sweep this incident under the rug in the hopes that no one at the NCAA would notice?
Both are troubling.
Hoping that no one would notice looks an awfully lot like a cover-up, while not being aware of the photographic evidence of the extent of Albetar's relationship calls into question the depth of the investigation.
This combination of factors will likely lead the NCAA to determine that Alabama competed with ineligible players. And if Alabama competed with ineligible players then the NCAA would have to undertake a fact-specific inquiry to determine what the appropriate punishment is. The university's letters could then be termed "aggravating factors" that would provide evidence of the university's knowledge and increase any subsequent punishments.
"Everything is fact-specific," said Jones, "so it's hard to say what sanctions or vacations of contests would be in play."
Jones also said that Alabama's decision to disassociate Tom Albetar while maintaining that he had committed no NCAA violation was "rare, but not unheard of." Jones continued, "I think I've seen it before, but I can't recall where. It's certainly not typical."
Asked what the NCAA's reaction was likely to be when the organization saw that Alabama had disassociated Albetar for actions the NCAA had previously been unaware of, Jones declined comment.
"I'd rather not predict what they would think of that," he said.
Here are OKTC's series of stories on "Suitgate"