Contributed by Intheknow72
Andre Smith has more than likely played his last game for the University of Alabama. His suspension, overwhelmingly favored to be because of contact with an agent, will leave him at home while his teammates battle the mighty Utes this Friday night. Kudos to a head coach and administration finally in place at Alabama who doesn’t blink but does the right thing in the face of adversity. How long has it been since we could say that? It shows a coach filled with integrity and confident that the foundation that has been laid with this team, knowing those who remain will pick up the slack. Does anyone really believe that nobody knew about the Antonio Langham thing in ’92 as it was happening? This could have gone that route, but it didn’t. Thank goodness those days are behind us, as the landscape of compliance in Tuscaloosa has changed dramatically since the 90’s. A relentless dictator who demands excellence and accountability from those who serve him and who doesn’t answer to boosters who want their back scratched prevents that sort of thing from happening. Thank goodness our University doesn’t have a puppet coach in place anymore for trustees and donors to play with.
Regardless, Andre’s suspension is a sad one. Not because it will change the outcome of the game. It makes the game more difficult, but ultimately the Tide will stretch its record to 7-1 in the Super Dome. But this is sad because it’s just another notch on the bedpost for the slimy underworld known as professional sports agents. Just as the serpent in the Garden of Eden surely did not lay out the full consequences to Adam and Eve, it is a safe bet that whoever the agent is who made improper contact with Smith conveniently kept a few details to himself. But there is another distinct possibility that nothing happened at all.
This most disturbing scenario was discussed on a popular sports talk show on Birmingham radio earlier this week. Simply put, Andre could have been contacted by an agent, declined further contact with no money changing hands, and yet still find himself suspended.
In short, after Andre’s decline, the jilted agent could anonymously contact the University (simply making an allegation that contact was made), and because the University couldn’t afford to take a chance on playing an ineligible player until an investigation is completed, a player who has done nothing wrong finds himself on the outside looking in. While admittedly this scenario sounds like something out of a Showtime original movie, it is possible. It is a hypersensitive world the NCAA has created, especially at an institution that just a few years previous was “staring down the barrel of a gun.” And with the gustapo style that this corrupt organization chooses to selectively execute its authority, the seediest and greediest of sports agents out there have all the power. Blow holes in this scenario if you will, but it is a travesty that this kind of thing is remotely possible. That’s like someone making the allegation anonymously that I was speeding on my way home, and before I can pull into the driveway the police are there to take away my license.
Ironically, the last time this happened at the Capstone was with another high profile left tackle. Chris Samuels mysteriously disappeared from the Crimson landscape between the SEC Championship game in 1999 and the Orange Bowl. While some might scoff at such a black helicopter theory, it was widely thought that dealings with an agent led to his absence in Miami. And keep in mind, that occurrence came under one Mike Dubose, who critics have said for years was asleep at the wheel while holding the top post at Alabama; far from the Nicktator.
Another theory floating out there is that Smith didn’t want to risk getting hurt, with the Outland Trophy and all the pre-draft momentum in hand. But if anybody thinks Andre Smith’s health was in danger against Utah, a team with a 245 lb. defensive tackle, they’ve cracked open the New Year’s Eve bubbly early. Come draft day, next spring or the spring of 2010, Andre is gonna get paid the kind of cash his grandkids will still be blowing decades from now. But I for one can’t blame him for leaving after his junior year, if that’s ultimately what he decides to do (and does anybody doubt it now?). That kind of payday is a once in a lifetime opportunity. However, if anyone knows Andre Smith, they know he is a good kid filled will character far beyond his years. He’s not stupid, and wouldn’t knowingly make a mistake that would tarnish his name, let alone the University he loves. He didn’t don the houndstooth hat on signing day for nothing.
But as we put a bow on this issue and send Mr. Smith toward his mansion in whatever city he’ll be playing in next season, humor me for just a second. If you’re on a full academic scholarship in business school at Alabama and your credentials and aptitude in a given area captures the attention of the leading financial institutions around the country (stay with me here), all of which want to give you a corner office as soon as you’ll say yes, what’s the harm in you having a cup of coffee with someone who can help you navigate through the sharks to find the fit that’s best for you after school? Now, I understand the rules, and I realize they are in place more to protect the player than anything else. Sports agents have a well-earned reputation for being scumbags, and any cash they loan comes with more strings than the Boston Pops. And I also realize you, me and anyone else reading this don’t picture Andre at a small corner table at Starbucks with an agent. But if two out of the three scenarios I painted for you is remotely true, which some believe the first to be, college football is broken. Like the New Orleans levees during Hurricane Katrina broken. Like bail outs for industries that will never repay broken. Like a National Championship without a playoff or plus one system broken.
Which begs the question…why do we love this game so much?