I often caught myself saying this off-season how refreshing it was to be without controversy. SEC Media Day marks the beginning of the football season, and well, we made it till the day before.
However, for those either in depression or elation over the Marcel Dareus story, here are a few bright spots to keep in mind.
1. It’s important to note the difference between an eligibility issue and an institutional issue. This is crucial for those fearful/hopeful about this in relation to the NCAA probation window.
If left unchecked an eligibility issue can become an institutional issue very quickly. That isn’t the case here.
This is a University compliance issue, and at this point the NCAA is not involved. They soon will be, but it will end with Dareus either being cleared, suspended for a number of games or ruled ineligible for the season.
While two of these three options are bad, any of them is a far cry from coming sanctions.
The textbook case was an eligibility issue that turned into an institutional issue because it went unchecked, spanning a few years.
In contrast, an illegal benefits situation last year involving Julio Jones, Mark Ingram and Jerrell Harris was a compliance issue that was settled within the University and stamped by the SEC and NCAA. Harris served a six game suspension. Jones and Ingram were cleared.
2. We found out now. Can you imagine this story breaking in November? Picture Alabama 10-0 going into the Georgia State game with Atlanta again on our minds and we find out we had an ineligible player (if he is ruled ineligible) suited up throughout the season. You’re welcome.
3. The illegal party involves players from several schools. This is good news because of the the pack mentality that has to occur to bring about change.
Sports agents are scum. There are plenty who play by the rules, but by in large sports agents rank somewhere between thieves who victimize old women and drug dealers who sell to kids.
The University of Alabama Athletic Department pumps plenty of education into its athletes to help them avoid these leeches. That having been said, if everything that has been alleged is true, Dareus is without excuse and deserves whatever is coming to him.
But agents prey upon athletes from meager backgrounds with great professional earning potential, and have been doing so for a long time. Similar to the Andre Smith incident, ironically another Huffman High School product, Dareus has gotten himself tangled up with an agent who couldn’t care less about the player’s college eligibility.
But this party is a widespread problem that will likely affect a number of schools before it’s all over. Chris Mortenson reported on ESPN radio Tuesday night that the initial speculation is that up to 25 NFL prospects were at the party, and from as many as 10 SEC schools.
There is safety in numbers, and as SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said on Tuesday:
“The agent issue is one that’s been of concern not only to us but I think to everyone associated with intercollegiate athletics, and I do think it’s time to re-examine some of the NCAA rules that relate to agents.”
Whether it’s cutting ties with the NFL until players enter combines in the off-season as Saban suggested on Tuesday, or taking other measures to fumigate the college landscape of these roaches, something will be done.
4. The party happened this summer. Meaning, it does not affect the 2009 season. You can pay $2 to get into the Bryant Museum at your earliest convenience and see our latest crystal football, and will be able to for the foreseeable future.
5. We are l-o-a-d-e-d. If we do lose Marcel Dareus for a stretch of games or the season, it’s definitely a blow. He’s easily our best returning defensive player. But this isn’t 2004. Losing one player doesn’t mean what it once did to our program.
Different position, but remember when we lost Prothro to injury in 2005? Our effectiveness on the offensive side of the ball was effectively over. We had no one to replace him. How many games did we play in which we could only manage 13 points after he went down?
That was then. This is now. Our sideline is teeming with guys who could be starting elsewhere.
Dareus is a force on the defensive line, but had Damion Square not hurt his knee early in the season last year, we might be talking about the interception he made in the National Championship game. Remember, Dareus wasn’t even a starter last season.
6. The party was for future NFL talent. That sigh of relief you just heard was from Lee County.
The news on Marcel Dareus is definitely not what any Alabama fan wanted to hear on Tuesday, but make yourself another cup of coffee and take a deep breath. It could be much worse.