Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama Football: No need to panic about D.J. Fluker story just yet


Yahoo Sports released a story this afternoon alleging that former Alabama Crimson Tide right tackle D.J. Fluker received impermissible benefits during his playing days in Tuscaloosa. The story alleged that Fluker received benefits from former Crimson Tide defensive end Luther Davis, who acted as an intermediary between Fluker and several agents.

The timing of this report couldn’t be much worse, as the Crimson Tide can ill-afford any distraction with the game in College Station against Johnny Manziel and company looming in three days.

This report has caused many Tide fans to extend their arms toward the panic button, as fans of rival schools opine for Alabama to be stripped of their last two National Championships when Fluker was the team’s starter at right tackle.

While Charles Robinson’s report is incredibly thorough, and the vast paper trail left behind by Fluker, Davis, and the agents is impossible to ignore; it’s unlikely that the NCAA will enforce any sort of strict penalty on the Crimson Tide, and even more unlikely that the Crimson Tide is stripped of their 2011 and 2012 national championships.

For anything to happen, the NCAA will have to prove that Alabama was aware of Fluker taking improper benefits to show a “lack of institutional control.” Nowhere in the Yahoo report was it alleged that the University was aware of Fluker taking money, and the agencies that provided the benefits are in no way connected to the university.

In the two most well known instances where Alabama was put on probation and stripped of wins, the situations were completely different from this one. Alabama was hammered in the early 1990′s when Antonio Langham took money from an agent because of their failure to cooperate with the NCAA investigation.

The sanctions Alabama received from the Logan Young/Albert Means case in 2000 was due to Young being an Alabama booster and paying Means’ high school coach $150,000 to persuade Means to sign with the Crimson Tide.

Those are completely different circumstances, as are recent NCAA cases where power programs such as USC and Ohio State were forced to vacate wins/scholarships, and received bowl bans.

The Trojans and Buckeyes were both aware of the wrongdoings and did nothing to put an end to it, which is why the NCAA came down so hard on them. USC was stripped of their 2004 BCS title by the NCAA, becoming the first and only school to ever have to vacate a national championship. The Associated Press decided not to strip them of their AP title from that same year.

That is the only precedent for a school being stripped of crystal, and these allegations pale in comparison to the Reggie Bush scandal in southern California.

Now, if the NCAA can prove that Alabama knew about Fluker taking money and did nothing about it, which seems very unlikely, then you should be worried. But not until then.

Alabama Athletic Director Bill Battle released a statement this afternoon to let everyone know that the school was aware of the allegations.

“We have been aware of some of the allegations in today’s story,” said Battle.  “And our compliance department was looking into this situation prior to being notified that this story was actually going to be published. Our review is ongoing. We diligently educate our student-athletes on maintaining compliance with NCAA rules, and will continue to do so.”

Nick Saban also addressed the allegations this evening at his press conference following the Crimson Tide’s practice in a brief statement saying that he had not read the article, but fully voiced his support for the administrative and compliance offices. Repeated questions got Saban pretty heated, and he walked off after no reporter in attendance had a question about the Texas A&M game this weekend.

Saban will assuredly get chastised for his petulant responses to the media, but his frustration is understood when he asks for no further questions on a matter he doesn’t know that much about yet, and is repeatedly asked the same question with slightly different wording.

With the outstanding reporting done by Charles Robertson and Rand Gettin to show the paper trail left by Fluker and others, it’s hard to deny that he took money while he was in college. Inevitably, everyone will go back to this tweet where Fluker admitted taking money, later saying his account was hacked.

In any case, there’s no need to vilify Fluker, especially if you read this story by Michael Gehlken of UT San Diego. Fluker and four members of his family slept in a car for weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf coast. He never had money growing up, and he didn’t sleep in a bed by himself until he was 15-years old.

Read this by Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel, who once again takes down the NCAA’s stance on amateurism. It’s a broken system, and one that is drastically in need of a complete overhaul. If the NCAA, and institutions can make money off of players, then players should be given some portion of that profit.

But I digress. The point of this is that there is no need to panic at this moment. The university will investigate this matter and do their due diligence to make sure no one inside the football program was aware of Fluker taking money. The NCAA will look into this as well, but unless they can find proof of a university cover-up, then there’s not a lot than come of this.

So remove your hand from the panic button, and don’t go getting rid of your 2011 and 2012 national championship memorabilia just yet.

Follow John on Twitter.

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Tags: Alabama Crimson Tide D.J. Fluker Football

  • AUALLIN

    You are exactly right and very insightful. The hammer falls when the Unversity ignores these things. I see this going no where. War Eagle.

    • BamaHammer

      Agreed, or when a school either self-polices or lawyers up. The NCAA really doesn’t want to get involved anymore, I think.

  • Bryan Bigham

    I wished I could share your optimism John, but I really see this going
    no other way than the NCAA stripping Alabama of at least their 2012
    national championship. If the University can prove they had no knowledge
    of the indiscretions or tried in any way to cover them up, then they
    will probably avoid the bowl ban/scholarship reductions, or perhaps even
    probation. However, according to NCAA bylaw 12.3.1.2, a player loses his amateur status once agreeing to accept benefits from prospective agents.

    If
    the accusations are indeed true, and the NCAA can find the evidence
    (which seems all too easy, thanks to Yahoo’s extremely detailed and time
    consuming investigation), then the NCAA would most likely have no
    choice but to proclaim DJ Fluker ineligible, retroactively. This would
    mean that every game he’s played in, at least AFTER accepting the
    benefits, would be vacated. That includes the 2012 national
    championship.

    I would like to believe that nothing will come of
    this, but it seems like a slam dunk case. Your article does seem true in
    the fact that Alabama could avoid the major punishments if it’s proven
    they had no knowledge of Fluker’s activities, but there doesn’t seem to
    be any way to avoid his ineligibility. One can only conclude that if
    he’s ineligible, then so is Alabama’s 2012 title.

    • BamaHammer

      Very valid points. I think it would be a slam dunk if the NCAA had in any way been consistent over the years. At this point the NCAA needs college football more than football needs them, and they recognize that if the SEC decided to pull its support for the NCAA, the rest of the conferences would follow. They’d rather have the income football brings – along with its scandals – than have to make a go of promoting women’s sports and basketball.

      • Bryan Bigham

        I agree. But do you think that given the current public perception that the NCAA is ineffective and basically “neutered”, they might want to make an example of a powerhouse program such as Bama? What better way to show that no team is above the law than by slamming a team that has won 3 out the last 4 titles? I also think that again, given public perception, the NCAA may want to show that money isn’t everything to them. It’s a gamble, but one that doesn’t necessarily result in the conference pulling their support due to the nature of the violations.

        • BamaHammer

          I think they tried to make an example out of Alabama in the early 2000s, and like with SMU’s death penalty case, will never do that again. Auburn showed everyone the template: lawyer up, lock down and ride it out. Alabama seems to have the added benefit of not having knowledge of the infractions.

          I could be dead wrong, but I don’t believe the NCAA wants to damage their biggest moneymaker.

          • Bryan Bigham

            I hope you’re right. I do know that if Alabama finds a way to avoid major penalties or the stripping of their title, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth across the landscape. The claims of the SEC owning the NCAA and being above the law will increase dramatically. Either way, I do not envy the NCAA. If they do nothing, people will assume they are in the SEC’s pockets. If they come down on Bama and other SEC teams, they run the risk of hurting ratings and affecting revenue.

            In the end, I just think the NCAA will try to reclaim their control over a failed system by making an example of the current big boy on the block. But I hope I’m wrong.

          • BamaHammer

            Well said, and I hope you’re wrong too.

          • Joseph Kool

            Biggest money maker lol? You guys are delusional

          • Bryan Bigham

            We appreciate your great contribution to the conversation. Your words are immeasurably full of wisdom.

          • Garry Butler

            Tell us another University that will have over 101,000 fans for a game with an unranked opponent…(Colorado St.)

      • Joseph Kool

        College football would do just fine without Alabama

    • John Mitchell

      It was practically a slam dunk case in the 1980s that Luther Campbell had provided extra benefits to Miami football players, and they weren’t stripped of anything. This isn’t the same NCAA as it was back then, either. The NCAA of now would have trouble proving that the sky is blue. Also, while Yahoo’s investigation was incredibly thorough, the NCAA can’t use any of it. They have to do their own investigation and come to the same conclusions for any penalties to come of it. They have been unable to string together a good investigation of any program here recently, and I don’t think things will change with Alabama.

      Even if Fluker did take that money, there is no definite guarantee that the NCAA would strip Alabama of a National Championship. There’s only one case where that was ever done, and this is child’s play compared to the USC case a few years ago. As long as Alabama had no prior knowledge of Fluker receiving payment, and didn’t knowingly play an ineligible player, then I don’t see anything major coming out of this.

      • Bryan Bigham

        Understandable, but to say the NCAA “can’t use any of it” is to assume that Yahoo will not turn over any of their findings to the NCAA. While the NCAA can’t demand they do, Yahoo certainly can voluntarily hand it over. But there is no guarantee they will.

        However, I can’t imagine a scenario in which Yahoo wastes so much time, resources, and effort just to say, “See, powerhouse programs cheat, and we have proof”, and then NOT do anything with the evidence. We also have to keep in mind that I believe it was Yahoo that broke the Reggie Bush scandal as well… but I’m not entirely sure if they handed over their evidence to the NCAA with that case either.

        I mean, is it really that far-fetched to believe that the Yahoo investigators would hand over any and all findings to the NCAA so that the NCAA could do “the right thing”?

        • John Mitchell

          Rand Getlin, the co-author of the story with Charles Robinson, said he doesn’t plan on turning over any information to the NCAA.

          There’s no comparison to the Reggie Bush situation considering the amount of money he took is a MUCH larger sum than Fluker is alleged to have taken. And I think it’s unlikely that Yahoo would turn over that information considering how critical all media have been of the NCAA recently.

          • bamminer

            Any entity that depends upon clients to open up to them is not going to “openly” for posterity give that information up for the world–even potential future clients to see. That’s the dilemna that they had with Manziel. No one’s going to affect their future earnings–if they don’t have to. And even then, they are going to fight doing so in a court of law due to livelihood. How will clients be able to trust that what they say is under the agreed upon condition for which it was agreed upon?! How once pandora’s box has been opened?

        • Greg Campbell

          Not only Yahoo. Because it violates Alabama laws, the Attorney General will be meeting to discuss a criminal trial especially when Davis is not a licensed agent in Alabama. Then we now learn they loaned Mark Barron Eight Grand which is illegal. The they wrote Barron a check for $100,000, which of course he destroyed when he took Sexton as his agent. The timing as to when the check was written is important, but the eagerness of the text messages as to had access to the photos Barron took of the check raises a lot of suspicion.

      • Jonsey

        As regards to Miami, the rules were different back then. No agents or anyone in the athletic was giving these players money and these dollar amounts where minute compared to what Fluker received. You are talking about $50 $100 etc.. in cash. For hits and plays made.

  • Larry Sirhall

    It is only the tip of the iceberg. The SEC is rife with shenanigans. A book coming out later this month reveals yet another player receiving $300K. The whole NCAA thing begs a change. The real victims are the 95+% of players who don’t go Pro, don’t end up with a degree and are discarded when eligibility is done. They make the schools millions and receive nothing, absolutley nothing….say it again….absolutely nothing in return. Either enable the NCAA to enforce the rules—give them subpoena powers with the ability to judicially enforce—or change the rules. I can say with confidence that the Senators from the SEC, 28 total, will block any meaningful reform. Yet, the 10 poorest, least educated states in the Union hail from the SEC so they’re doing something right down there. Larry

    • BamaHammer

      Well, I agree those are probably the solutions. But it’s not just the SEC, and it’s silly to say otherwise.

      • Larry Sirhall

        I agree that it is a huge problem. I am just commenting on SEC because of the article and focus on Les Miles. If the NCAA could subpoena records, and enforce the subpoena(s), then there would be a lot of programs in trouble. The problem, as I see it, is that most schools cannot afford a bidding war. And most of the athletes lose out because they get nothing out of the deal. The whole thing needs to be rewired. La

    • Bryan Bigham

      If you’ve paid attention to the headlines lately, it isn’t just the SEC Larry. It’s all over the map. If you think it’s just centralized in the Southeastern portion of the US, then you’re showing more blind hatred than common sense.

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  • bamminer

    Hopefully, the NCAA sees this as they should: if Alabama knew, then may its championship be withdrew(withdrawn) and not as the bungling policing, watchdog group trying to make an example of a big time college instution(a dynasty is at stake) in order to reinforce that they aren’t asleep at the controls. If Alabama is in the right–as far as not knowing–then they should sue the NCAA’s butt off if they should seriously rule against them!

    What should Alabama have known? If something happens in a “dark room” some place, then how’s the school to know–if [of course] the school is in the right? Did someone higher up ask Fluker about his infamous tweet or did NO ONE close to Nick Saban/ the AD tell them about it(because such a person would have all the leverage and no fear–that he told the university about what Fluker tweeted–even if fired in spite, that person has the valuable story that dethrones the champ–be it coach; associate; friend; employee; whoever)? If that is a yes, because either entity’s family can bring such a thing up or it’s on the news or on the sports’ channels, Did Fluker [in response] tell the university that his account was hacked? If the other answer was yes (whether Fluker lied about it or not, it’s out of Alabama’s hands), then this had better be yes, too. Otherwise, Alabama knew. The so-called paper trail–could NCAA ask the banks, credit card companies, etc. and would they talk(of course, they don’t have to talk)? Regardless of what else they can get, they’ve got to prove that the money exchanged! You can go so many different ways with your reasoning about this with only 3 outcomes: true vindication for the university; true culpability for the university; or an effective draw(Manziel case).

    • Ryan Phillips

      All of Reggie Bush’s dealings happened in backrooms in San Diego, far away from USC’s campus. The school was never proven to have any idea what was going on yet still got hammered. I agree, how is a school supposed to know what’s going on far from their view? Are they supposed to constantly check a kid’s bank account, etc? In some cases there really is nothing you can do.

      • bamminer

        If I was an investigator here, the only things that would matter would be what the university says initially, what they say about how they handled the tweet, and what Fluker actually told them in response to the tweet. If Fluker told Alabama(because they had suspicions after the tweet) that his account was hacked–then regardless of whether Fluker is lying or not Alabama would be in the clear from being attacked on the basis of they knew. If, however, they did nothing with their suspicions, then that is a lack of institutional control. What will Fluker say about the tweet and could it be proven true/false?! Those are some questions that I’d be sure to ask and how they were answered/proven would determine my verdict. Now, if they want to be Barney Fife’s instead of Andy Griffiths, then we are already in trouble.

  • Greg Campbell

    Yea, a poor kid who drives an expensive car, wears nice cloths, fly’s to other states for a one day trip, buys his girlfriend way to Bowl games, wears nice jewelry and has no job. No red flags
    there

  • Jonsey

    I have to disagree, usually with these matters this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a-lot beneath the surface. What would alarm me is how damming the paper trail was with DJ fluker. How easily this evidence was obtained. You are being a bit naive thinking Fluker was the only one receiving extra benefits on that team and know one noticed.

    • John Mitchell

      I’m not assuming any of that. You don’t know that, and I don’t know that. I’m talking strictly about this story. Anything else that may or may not be going on has not been reported on to this point, so why even bring it up? It is unlikely anyone noticed Fluker was receiving extra benefits. We are talking about a few thousand dollars; he wasn’t cashing six-figure checks and driving a brand new charger to practice.

      I think it is safe to say that Alabama would have self reported Fluker taking money from an agent, much like they did in 2010 when Marcell Dareus did the same thing and was suspended for two games and forced to pay back the money he took.

    • Garry Butler

      Kinda like the new Cam Newton rule that any player in the future involved in the exact same situation as Cam is now ineligible … but Cam was only ineligible for a few hours…lol. Long enough to inform him that if he lied and said he did not know what his Dad was doing he would have his eligibility reinstated …. The NCAA is a total joke … When Auburn had actual players interview and say they were receiving money and yet the NCAA found no incriminating evidence….lol

  • Ryan Phillips

    The part you get wrong in all of this is that the NCAA never proved USC knew about Reggie Bush. In fact, if you actually read the final report, the NCAA even concedes that it is unlikely that USC was aware of what Bush was doing. But the key sentence in the report is that the Committee on Infractions determined that one of USC’s coaches (running backs coach Todd McNair) “should have known.” How they made that determination is really sketchy. But if the NCAA decides that Alabama knew Fluker was extremely poor but was suddenly tossing around money, the school could get hung out to dry for not investigating it.

    This case is actually very similar to what happened with Bush. One difference is that a former Alabama player was funneling the money to Fluker, whereas in the USC case a wannabe agent from San Diego who went to high school with Bush was doing it. The guy had no connection to USC.

    It will be interesting to see where this goes. If the NCAA decides that Fluker was ineligible in either (or both) of the championship games, then Alabama would have used an ineligible player and regardless of the school’s culpability it would have to vacate that victory. Those are the rules and there really isn’t any wiggle room there.

    • John Mitchell

      That’s a good point, and the NCAA was criticized heavily for their ruling in the USC case, and they still have black eye from it. Charles Robinson and Rand Getlin, the writers of the Yahoo! report on Fluker and others, don’t believe the NCAA will be able to replicate the evidence they found on Fluker, and they won’t be turning over any of their information due to it being unethical for them to get in involved (his words).

      The NCAA’s enforcement staff is a shell of what it was. I don’t believe they are capable of finding any kind of truth at the moment.

  • mike

    3 peat offense in 30 years this make 2 in less than 10 years hang rolltied1907 the death penalty should be given titles strip and please look into twitter picture too. NCAA need new prez one not buddies or girlfriends lovers with satan opps saban.

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  • TN-TIGER

    HAHA! Typical AL fan to try and sugar coat and BS a story as much as possible. I hope the hammer falls hard right on top of ya’lls over inflated egos. GEAUX TIGERS!

    • BamaHammer

      Don’t hold your breath…

      • TN-TIGER

        No need….THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE!!

  • Bobby Brode

    Wow, Trent Richardson and his moms house , suits, rental cars, hot wheel pimping out rides , Julio Jones’s suits and Tahoe. This is not new news that stuff is going on there. This must make Ohio State and USC fans feel great.

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  • Brian D

    Alabama obviously knew they “lent” money to Clinton-Dix. Fluker and the spying former Old Miss are cheating, but the school has deniability there for now. The coach giving money to a player is far more egregious than anything Ohio State did, though.

  • John Wolverton

    Wow, did you get this wrong! Please take a look at the NCAA rules. USC had its undefeated season vacated because Bush got extra benefits in violation of the rules and was determined to be an ineligible player. USC then lost scholarships and got a bowl ban (among other penalties) because of the lack of institutional control. In other words, if Bama players got cash, the tittles will be vacated. Sorry, but those are the rules!