Alabama football fans conflicted over hating Tennessee or NCAA more

In what may become the biggest battle of the NIL era, Alabama football fans are unsure if they hate the Tennessee Vols or the NCAA more.
Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

College football has a new throwdown and plenty of Alabama football fans are loving it. The latest NCAA inquiry into the Tennessee football program puts the Vols at serious repeat offender risk. So serious that the Vols should fear a potentially devastating impact on the Tennessee football program.

In direct opposition to the gravity explained above is the weakness of the NCAA to punish any program for anything. Many college football fans believe the current NCAA will collapse sooner than the University of Tennessee will be punished.

Alabama Crimson Tide fans harbor hatred for both entities, making it hard to choose a side to support in the contest. Older Alabama football fans think of former Tennessee head coach and athletic director, Phil Fulmer as a devil. On multiple occasions, Fulmer's treachery was intended to damage or destroy the Alabama program.

In more recent years, Fulmer and Tennessee set up Jeremy Pruitt as the fall guy in an NCAA punishment that resulted in a 6-year show cause for Pruitt. Tennessee was punished, but so was Alabama, given Pruitt could not be hired for a Crimson Tide on-field role.

Disdain of the NCAA by Alabama fans goes back decades to NCAA penalties and probations levied against the Crimson Tide, while other programs with greater transgressions went unpunished.

An 'either, or' choice for Alabama football fans?

NCAA culpability goes too deep for a recounting in this format. In summary, over decades the NCAA has proven itself as an inept organization nearly incapable of bringing any value to its members or the sports it governs.

The University of Tennessee is attacking the NCAA because doing so is its only defense. As Bama Hammer recently discussed, there is compelling evidence that the Tennessee football program presented a contract to then recruit Nico Iamaleava that included an initial payment of $350,000 to sign with the Vols.

The same evidence indicates the validity of past claims that the deal presented to Iamaleava would allow him to earn up to $8M playing football for the Vols. There can be no standard to categorize the arrangement as anything but 'play for pay.'

Tennessee's defense can be explained in two words - so what. The University of Tennessee offers no denial. Rather its counterattack is the NCAA never clearly defined that NIL funds could not be used to pay recruits and players, for services to be provided on the football field. The Tennessee argument is skillfully clouded to deflect any blame, but at its core is the attitude of 'so what' and how dare you (NCAA) challenge anything done.

A more honest defense by Tennessee would be 'every program is doing it, so it is unfair to single out us.'

What are college football fans, and especially Alabama football fans, to make of this mess? Using a Shakespearian reference something is 'rotten' in the world of college football. Neither the NCAA nor Tennessee are to be defended. Instead, let's again ask, as Nick Saban did a few years ago, is this what we want college football to be?