Thoughts of the day: September 12, 2013


This is from Yahoo Sports, which has been rather active on the investigative trail the last three years. Among the players Yahoo alleges – and apparently backs up with emails and Western Union receipts – took cold, hard cash was Alabama’s D.J. Fluker, an All-American tackle on the 2012 national championship team. The others listed were defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and wide receiver Chad Bumphis of Mississippi State, and quarterback Tyler Bray and defensive end Maurice Couch of Tennessee. The cash came from agents who used former Alabama defensive end Luther Davis as their go-between.


My initial thought upon hearing about the Yahoo Sports allegations was, “And your point is?” After all, this is the Southeastern Conference, which has turned cheating and football probation into somewhat of an art form. There are 14 schools in the SEC and since 1991 the only ones who haven’t gone on probation for football violations are Florida, Missouri and Vanderbilt. Every other school has been on probation at least once and there are three currently serving NCAA jailtime – South Carolina, Mississippi State and Tennessee. This means that Mississippi State and Tennessee could have their current probations lengthened and additional penalties tacked on including the dreaded lack of institutional control. If they get that tacked on, you can almost count on bowl bans.


For playing Fluker, Alabama could be forced to vacate wins, including the national championship game. That’s happened before. If you remember, NCAA probation caused Southern Cal to have its 2004 national title vacated. The seriousness of Southern Cal’s probation and losing its national title had every bit as much to do with Southern Cal stonewalling the investigative process as it did Reggie Bush and family taking a ton of money from an agent. Alabama has no reason not to be fully cooperative with the NCAA, but should there be lenience for Bama considering the school finished a 3-year probation in 2012 and is within that 5-year major infractions window that on paper promises more serious sanctions for a repeat offender?


The recently-completed probation at Alabama was all about impermissible benefits to student-athletes in the following sports: football, baseball, softball, gymnastics, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s indoor and out door track; soccer and volleyball. It resulted in vacating 16 football wins in 2005-06 when Mike Shula was the coach and 5 football wins in 2007, Nick Saban’s first year on the job. Football had those wins vacated because Alabama was viewed as a repeat offender from a 5-year probation (ended in 2007) that resulted in the loss of 21 scholarships for extra benefits and violations of the recruiting rules. The 2002 probation was harsher than it should have been because Alabama basketball got hit with sanctions in 1999 and those were on the heels of a 1995 probation that forced Bama to forfeit 9 wins in 1993. So there is a 20-year history of breaking the rules in a big way. Can the NCAA overlook Alabama’s very checkered past?


Since 1991, only one Southeastern Conference school has a clean slate in all sports and that is Florida. Yes, even Vanderbilt has gone on probation for unethical conduct in women’s basketball that cost six scholarships in 1992. A look at probations for football, basketball and women’s basketball since 1991 shows Alabama leading the way in the SEC with five probations followed by South Carolina and Tennessee with three each.

6. THE ALL-TIME SEC CHEATING CHART: In terms of most probations (all sports) since 1953, Vanderbilt is the least penalized program with only the 1992 basketball sanctions. Here is the full list:

Auburn (8): 1957, 1958, 1974, *1979, 1980, *1991, 1993, 2004

* Men’s basketball, football

** Men’s basketball, men’s tennis

Kentucky (7): *1953, 1964, **1976 (2), 1988, 1989, 2002

* Received death penalty in men’s basketball for one year

** Football, men’s basketball

Texas A&M (7): 1957, 1966, 1969, 1977, 1988, 1991, 1994

Georgia (7): 1978, 1982, *1985 (2), 1997, 2004

* Football, men’s basketball

South Carolina (7): *1967 (2), 1987, 1991, 2005, **2012

* Football, men’s basketball

** Football, men’s basketball, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track

Mississippi State (6): 1967, 1975, *1986, 1996, 2004, 2013

* Men’s and women’s basketball, women’s tennis, women’s golf, softball

Alabama (5): 1964, 1995, 1999, 2002, *2009

* Football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track, men’s and women’s golf, soccer, volleyball

Florida (5): 1957, 1962, 1985, *1990 (2)

* Football and basketball

Tennessee (4): 1986, 1991, 2011, 2012

LSU (4): *1986, 1998, 2011

* Football, men’s and women’s basketball

Missouri (4): 1962, 1979, 1990, 2004

Arkansas (4): 1965, 1997, *2003 (2)

* Football and men’s basketball

Ole Miss (3): 1959, 1986, 1994

Vanderbilt (1): 1992


This might be a huge what if, but what if the NCAA slapped Alabama with a lack of institutional control, which it very well could do considering the school is within the 5-year repeat offender window that won’t expire until 2017? What if the NCAA vacated Nick Saban’s 2012 national championship? I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know all the clauses in Saban’s contract, but since he’s not directly involved in the violations would he have an out to leave Bama? Think about this for a second. Supposing he wins another championship. That’s three in a row and four in five years. Talk about pressure, that’s it and odds are that the only way to go is down. Nick has never stayed anywhere very long. Would this be his perfect out to take a job for, say, $10-12 million at Texas? Or maybe Southern Cal, where, like Texas, money is no object? It’s something to think about.


The ongoing series in Sports Illustrated that goes into considerable detail alleging widespread misconduct including money benefits including big hits, recreational drug use and recruiting hostesses having sex with potential signees, has been disputed by a growing number of former Oklahoma State players and by former coach Les Miles. Miles went so far as to say that during the three years he was at Okie State (2001-04) “staff, family and friends, and anybody that sat in our meeting rooms, knew that this thing was done right.” Sports Illustrated has a fine track record for accuracy, but with widespread denials, SI could be forced to show evidence of its allegations.


Those of us who grew up in Gainesville have always held a special place in our heart for Stephen Stills, a Gainesville High boy who made good. In Gainesville, his mid-60s band, The Maundy Quintet, included Bernie Leadon and Don Felder, founding members of The Eagles. Bernie discovered Linda Ronstadt while Don taught Tom Petty how to play guitar. Stephen moved on to Hollywood in 1966, started The Buffalo Springfield and then Crosby, Stills and Nash with David Crosby (The Byrds) and Graham Nash (The Hollies), which evolved into Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young when Neil Young was added to the band. This is “Carry On” from the very first Crosby, Stills and Nash album, which came out in January of 1969. Other than The Beach Boys and The Beatles, these guys set the standard for great harmony.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.