TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- University of Alabama officials said they would appeal a decision by the NCAA Committee on Infractions that was released today. The committee imposed penalties on the football program beyond what had already been self-imposed as a result of rules infractions by boosters.
We at The University of Alabama are extremely disappointed by the decision released today by the NCAA Committee on Infractions. We respectfully disagree with several conclusions drawn by the committee and with the penalties imposed. It is our firm conviction that the additional penalties are not supported by violations acknowledged by the University or found by the committee. While we do not relish prolonging this process, we believe we must appeal those decisions.
We are currently analyzing the report, so we will not discuss the details of our appeal today. But after reviewing the committee's findings, we are firm in our belief that the penalties are inappropriate. We have acknowledged inappropriate behavior on the part of a few people whom I have termed "rogue" boosters, who were clearly involved in NCAA recruiting violations, and who have thereby damaged our football program. The University took corrective measures and disassociated those three boosters from our athletics programs. However, it is extremely important to emphasize that independent of the boosters' violations, nowhere in the committee's report are there any significant findings relating to any current or former football coaching staff members or institutional staff members.
We are particularly troubled that the mitigation defenses raised in our response to the Letter of Official Inquiry, and then again at the infractions hearing were not acknowledged or addressed in today's infractions report.
After the infractions hearing and prior to receipt of this report, my first inclination was to ask: "Could or should we have done things differently in our response to the allegations or at the infractions hearing?" My response has always been, and remains today, even after reading this report, "No." We presented our case in a fashion that openly acknowledges violations when the evidence supported such conclusions, and contested in good faith those that did not meet the NCAA requirements.
We move ahead today to pursue an appeal before the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee, and have already begun a thorough analysis of the issues. We regret that we must prolong this process, but the decision we have been given today is simply unacceptable. We will focus all our efforts in presenting an appeal requesting reduction of the penalties in this case. I thank you for your attention.
"The ruling by the NCAA's Committee on Infractions is extremely disappointing. While we recognize that the actions of a few have gone beyond the scope of NCAA rules, I believe we have sufficient grounds to appeal this decision and we will do so.
I believe strongly that we have a coach and staff in place that will lead this program in the right direction and it is important for our fans to recognize, trust and support coach Fran more than ever in that leadership role.
"This University has made what we consider a very strong case to educate our boosters and will continue to do so. Coach Fran, for many years, has had written guidelines which address the issue of boosters and keeping team members from interacting with people who should not be near the program.
"I am also extremely disappointed that the Committee on Infractions minimized the efforts of our compliance staff. The praise we received in February 1999 from the Committee on Infractions was well deserved. However, the Committee's opinion and resulting penalties fail to recognize their efforts.
"Clearly, today's decision by the Committee on Infractions is a significant set back, however, I echo President Sorensen's statement that this matter has not and will not be resolved until we are provided an opportunity to present a vigorous appeal to the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee. Until that time, I will not comment on our appeal or the position that will be advanced.
I urge our alumni, fans and followers to support Coach Fran, his staff and the current players through this period of appeal and the upcoming seasons. If Alabama ever needed the full support of our fans, it is now as we resolve to move forward."
"From the time I was interviewed by Mal Moore and hired as head football coach of The University of Alabama, I have known that pushing through the NCAA situation would not be for the faint of heart. But I have a favorite reading that goes, "Tough Times Don't Last, but Tough People Do." We are now in a time when we must be tough in spirit.
As I've told my team many times, you know you will face some crises, and the key to success is how you handle those difficult times. I've also told them after losses that it's okay to hurt, okay to be angry. If we weren't, I would be concerned. It hurts deeply.
But, although the penalties handed down today are much stiffer than we anticipated, the mystery is cleared up and we know what we are up against. The coaches, the players, and I now must roll up our sleeves and work that much harder to sustain and restore Crimson Tide football. We have pledged all along, as I have my entire career, to create a program that competes at the highest level within the rules.
I met with our players today and informed them of the penalties and what lies ahead. They obviously were very disappointed. My number one concern right now is for the well being of the members of this football team and coaching staff.
We will strengthen our resolve and work to keep the players focused on our task at hand, and keep them away from individuals who do not respect NCAA rules.
Many people who live Alabama football, especially the players on this team, are paying a heavy price for the actions of a distant few. The University has avenues to address that heavy price, and I concur fully with the decision to appeal this ruling.
Most important right now, though, is that all of us involved with Alabama football rally and fight hard to push through this difficult period."