Among the Alabama players have covered, I would put D.J. Fluker high on the list for a straight-up guy who should be considered innocent until proved guilty. But a young man who lived with his family in a car following Hurricane Katrina may be one who didn’t listen to the dangers of dealing with agents and their runners – pimps in the words of Bama Coach Nick Saban. That’s understandable, but it would still be wrong.
Anyone with any knowledge of a justice system understands that one side of the story, particularly the prosecution side presented first, may not be complete and accurate. That will play out over time. And in the case of the NCAA, based on its current Miami debacle, perhaps a long time.
The immediate concern for Alabama is that there is a football game against Texas A&M in College Station Saturday. Bama is currently ranked first in the nation, Texas A&M sixth, and this is a game that could have national championship implications.
As might be expected, Saban had little patience with questions about the story after he addressed it in remarks at his regular Wednesday press briefing. He said that he hadn’t read the article and that he knew Athletics Director Bill Battle had commented on the situation.
Battle’s statement was, “We have been aware of some of the allegations in today's story 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."
Saban said, “I would say that, from an administrative standpoint and from a compliance standpoint, our people here do a fantastic job. I know that we have, I think one of the best agent education programs in terms of what we try to do to help our players make good choices and decisions, about what they do and what they don't do when it comes to agents. And I have full confidence in our leadership that we're going to do whatever we need to do to handle the situation appropriately and I know that we will. If you want to know - I don't know anything about any current players that would have any circumstances relative to this, so there's no sense in asking about that.”
The YahooSports article, while focusing on Fluker and former Alabama player Luther Davis, who is portrayed as a “runner” for the agents, also purported to have evidence that current defensive end Ed Stinson had received improper benefits.
Saban added, “For as high profile players as we've had around here, I'm really pleased with the way most of them, for the most part, have managed their circumstances and their situations and focused on what they need to do for The University of Alabama.
Saban was asked when Alabama became aware of the investigation, but said that was in the area of administration. He added, “We've done a lot of investigating about a lot of things. Every time somebody brings something up about our program we investigate it. We do the best we can. There's nobody in this organization that wants to do anything that's not above board and we don't want our players to do it either. That's not what the program's built on, and that's not what we're going to do. But as I said before. I made a statement; don't ask me any more questions about this.”
Asked if this was a distraction, Saban said,”It hasn't been distracting to me because I don't read about it. I'm focused on what we need to do to play a game. That's what's fair to our players, and that's what we owe our current players. So this has not been a distraction for me. We have really good people who will manage this, and if anybody didn't do the right things, we'll take appropriate action to take care of it.”
The third – and ultimately final – question of the press briefing was so close in subject to the second (“How does the timing of this affect you and the team?) that Saban became obviously irritated. He asked for questions about the team and when there were none he said, “Appreciate you interest in the game.”