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Alabama Can't Control Boosters, But Can Control Players

If you haven’t read Clay Travis’ report on the T-town Menswear saga, go read it. We’ll wait right here.

If you are one of those Luddites that think your one click makes a dime’s worth of difference in his paycheck, let us sum the whole thing up for you.

Tom Albetar is a booster that runs a couple of stores in a dying mall in the center of Tuscaloosa. He offers Alabama Crimson Tide memorabilia for sale, including items autographed by past and current members of the team. Several players, including AJ McCarron and his girlfriend, professional reaction shot Katherine Webb, have been photographed in the store being all buddy-buddy with Albetar.

The University of Alabama issued a cease-and-desist letter disassociating Albetar from their program, which he has by all appearances ignored. This latest kerfuffle prompted UA Director of Athletics Bill Battle to issue a statement:

“We are aware of the story produced today. As part of our ongoing compliance efforts, our compliance department looks into everything that warrants concern. That effort is diligent and all-encompassing, and requires constant communication and education regarding all potential issues.”

So what should we think of all this? Should angry mobs descend on the mall and burn Albetar’s store to the ground? Should Clay Travis work as hard investigating his own school (Tennessee; shocking we know) as he does Alabama?

Here are a few takeaways to consider.

• Tom Albetar seems to be a real sleaze. But being a sleaze isn’t illegal, nor against NCAA rules. He gets off being in close proximity to the Alabama football program, and has the money to gain that access. College football has a seedy underbelly, and that’s true at even the schools that we pretend are squeaky clean.

• People with money always have, and always will, have access to the inner circle of college athletics. Just like they have access to the best medical care, best schools, and best food. That’s just how it is.

• Contrary to what Clay Travis might imply, it’s not an NCAA violation for a current player to sign autographs on memorabilia. It’s a violation for that player to be paid for his autograph.

• There’s probably no way anyone can prove Albetar is paying current Tide players to sign memorabilia, because if he has half a brain, it’s being done by intermediaries, in cash.

• Tom Albetar is probably paying current Tide players to sign memorabilia.

• The only way to police this is to issue a decree that any players who are found to frequent Albetar’s stores, or whose autographs show up on memorabilia in his stores, will be suspended for something like four games. Anything less is a tacit approval of picking up a little cash on the side.

• Elite athletes pick up a little cash on the side. They do it at Alabama, and Auburn, and Texas A&M, too. Elite athletes are afforded privileges some of us don’t get. Again, that’s just how it is. If you don’t like it, start campaigning to have college football players earn a paycheck.

• Clay Travis earns his own paycheck by generating pageviews and ratings, not by being an objective journalist. Alabama fans shouldn’t expect Mike Wallace in matters like this. Targeting Alabama is a sure-fire way to earn eyeballs, because Alabama fans leap all over stories like this as further evidence of a global conspiracy against the Crimson Tide, and the other 49 states use it as further evidence of their own prejudices against the state of Alabama.

• None of this will stop Alabama from signing a top recruiting class, because the players, the coaches, and everyone inside the velvet ropes of college football knows how the game is played.

• Nick Saban still runs college football, whether Clay Travis, national runners-up Auburn, or anyone else likes it or not.

We’d like to know your thoughts. Can anything be done about guys like Albetar? And how culpable are the players themselves in these matters?

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