As Alabama draws closer to the biggest game of the year against Texas A&M on Saturday, a major distraction has emerged that could take the attention away from the game.
Yahoo! Sports is reporting that former Alabama offensive lineman D.J. Fluker, and four other former Southeastern Conference players, accepted impermissible benefits during his time at the university. Fluker, a winner of two national titles at Alabama, has been linked to former Alabama defensive lineman Luther Davis, an alleged runner for sports agents, who played for the Crimson Tide from 2007 to 2010.
The report claims - with documentation through Davis’ financial records and text message conversations - that Fluker accepted money orders, flights on private jets, paid expenses, a king-sized bed set and other benefits.
Current Alabama senior defensive lineman Ed Stinson is named in the Yahoo! report but was not implicated in any wrongdoing.
Alabama athletic director Bill Battle released a statement Wednesday saying that the department is looking into the situation.
“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,” the release from Battle said. “Our review is ongoing. We diligently educate our student-athletes on maintaining compliance with NCAA rules, and will continue to do so.”
Alabama head coach Nick Saban gave a brief and fiery press conference today, not really adding anything to the story. Saban opened his remarks praising the team’s progress and saying that they had a good week of practice. He said that he had not read the Yahoo! story and that the compliance department would handle it.
“I have full confidence in our leadership that we're going to do whatever we need to do to handle the situation appropriately," Saban said. “This is an administrative issue that our leadership will do a very, very good job of managing.”
After addressing the issue at hand and fielding two questions pursuing the topic further, Saban became ornery. More ornery than usual. He said that there’s no use talking about former players, he is here to talk about the current players on the current team. Then, another question was asked about the Yahoo! report.
“I made a statement, don’t ask me anymore questions about this,” Saban said, emphatically. A long ten seconds of silence followed.
One more question was asked, not pertaining to Saturday’s game and Saban was finished. The short-lived press conference ended with a sigh and Saban saying, “‘Appreciate your interest in the game.”
Fluker’s actions would be a direct violation to NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52, which states that a player is prohibited from receiving payments or benefits from agents or marketing representatives. This is the same bylaw violated by USC’s Reggie Bush, which rendered him ineligible, voiding the games in which he played while ineligible and vacating all team’s wins. The NCAA investigation resulted in a USC bowl ban, reduction of scholarships, and a vacation of a national title. Alabama could face a similar fate and it has a lot to lose, seeing that Fluker played in games in 2011 and 2012. The football team could potentially have both national titles vacated.
Obviously, the Alabama Athletic Department and NCAA will be looking into this and we will see what happens, if anything.