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


Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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