TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The NCAA placed Alabama's football program and 15 other university athletic teams on three years' probation for major violations due to misuse of free textbooks.
The NCAA said yesterday that 201 athletes in 16 sports obtained "impermissible benefits" by using their scholarships to obtain free textbooks for other students. Alabama identified 22 athletes, including seven football players, as "intentional wrongdoers" who knew they were receiving improper benefits.
As a result, the NCAA ruled that the football team must vacate any wins in which any of those seven players took part during 2005-07. Alabama did not immediately say how many victories would be affected.
Neither the football team nor any other sport lost postseason eligibility or scholarships.
"The penalty itself is not one that's directed at the coach," said Paul Dee, who chairs the committee on infractions and is a former University of Miami athletic director. "It's one that involves the team. It's one that involves the players, and we believe it's the appropriate penalty under these circumstance."
The other 15 "wrongdoers" were members of the men's tennis, and men's and women's track and field programs. The NCAA said those individuals must vacate any records they hold, and team point totals will be reconfigured accordingly from regular-season and postseason events.
Athletes get free textbooks with their scholarship, but some were accused of getting additional textbooks for other students. The NCAA said the athletes were not restricted by purchase limits or required to show photo identification.
They acquired textbooks and materials of value greater than $100 for friends and other student-athletes. The four biggest offenders in dollar value were among the seven football players, who received from $2,714 to $3,947 in improper benefits.
The other sports hit with probation were softball, baseball, gymnastics, women's basketball, soccer, volleyball, and both the men's and women's teams in basketball, golf, swimming, tennis, and track and field. Only five of the school's 21 athletic programs were not involved.
The university was ordered to pay a $43,900 fine.
Alabama officials noted that no coach or staff member was involved and that none of the players gained financially.
Alabama, which did not contest the allegations, is a repeat violator because the program was placed on five years' probation in February 2002, when it was also under the five-year window for basketball violations.
The sanctions come at a time when Alabama fans were celebrating the football program's return to national prominence. Coach Nick Saban led the Tide to a 12-0 record and a No. 1 ranking last season before the team lost to Florida in the SEC title game and to Utah in the Sugar Bowl.