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Sunday, February 24, 2008

College Football Beat (Police Blotter revisited)

It's being reported by several local media outlets early this morning that senior defensive back Rashad Johnson was arrested for "disorderly conduct" after a scuffle with barroom bouncers was witnessed by two officers of the Tuscaloosa Police Department outside the "Legacy". This follows on the heels of the arrest of Jeremy Elder and Alabama head football coach Nick Saban's first season that was littered with arrests and suspensions for various team and NCAA violations.

After the 2006 season of discontent, Mike Shula was let go and Mal Moore bought.....brought in Nick Saban to rebuild the program out of the dark era of probation to the tune of an thirty two million dollar, 8 yr. contract.

From Nick Saban's introductory press conference: "I want you to know it will be our goal to give you the kind of football program, the kind of football team you can be proud of and that will compliment the tradition that this institution has been so proud of through the years and that's going to be the goal with this football program."

Those around the program expecting to see immediate signs of progress in this area have been, to say the least, sorely disappointed. Problems began surfacing during the summer of '07 when three Alabama players were arrested in two separate incidents, (1.) football players Brandon Deadrick and Roy Upchurch were arrested after creating a disturbance outside, again, the "Legacy", and (2.)senior defensive back Simeon Castille was detained and charged with "disorderly conduct" after an incident in the middle of the night, in the middle of the road, on the "Strip" in Tuscaloosa.

The '07 campaign began with the one game suspensions of Keith Brown and Prince Hall for undisclosed team issues. After winning it's first three games in a row and a close loss to Georgia at home, the arrests and suspensions quickly took a backseat in the wave of euphoria the 3 - 1 start brought. Then, in an announcement timed minutes befor the kickoff of the Tennessee game, five players, Antoine Caldwell, Glen Coffee, Marlon Davis, Marquis Johnson and Chris Rogers were suspended pending an investigation into "textbook" issues.

Saban and Alabama seemed unfazed by the suspensions as they whipped the visiting (and hated) Vols 41 - 17. Again, at 6-2, the Tide Nation was riding high. It was later revealed the players in question were to be suspended for four games for "improper receipt of textbooks." But with the big win over UT and a huge nationally televised home game with LSU pending, it was without a doubt a backburner issue with the fans. Even with the eventual loss to LSU, the Tide played well, fought deep into the fourth quarter toe-to-toe with a vastly superior LSU team. The issue was not decided until a late fourth quarter interception by John Parker Wilson gave the Tigers the opportunity to win, which they did. Still, at 6 - 3, with Mississippi State, Louisiana-Monroe and Auburn in the homestretch, 'Bama fans were optimistic. Coming off the dismal final Shula season and in Saban's first year, an eight or nine win season seemed very doable. The events of that three game stretch faded the optimism quickly.

Alabama, frankly, looked totally unprepared and terrible against State. Two John Parker Wilson interceptions gave the game to one of the late Coach Bryant's favorites, Sylvester Croom. Later the next week it was announced that 'Bama's star wide receiver, D. J. Hall, would be suspended one game for, again, an undisclosed team issue. (it was rumored he instigated a fight with J. P. Wilson) Hall stayed on the sideline for a half. When the Tide came out of halftime tied 14 - 14 with the Warharks, D. J. Hall, to the surprise of many, took the field. It didn't make much difference. 'Bama bumbled and stumbled to an embarrassing 21 - 14 loss in front of the home crowd. Scattered booing reminded some of Shula's last days.

In the press conference afterwards Saban was pressed on the change in his punishment of Hall and it's obviously suspicious timing. "It was what it was", was his only comment. In his Monday press conference, much was made nationally about his "catastophe" reference and a supposed comparison to Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

"Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event," Saban said during the opening remarks of his weekly news conference on Monday. "It may be 9-11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to catastrophic events. Pearl Harbor kind of got us ready for World War II, or whatever, and that was a catastrophic event."

The national news media had a field day with those comments. But it is other comments during this same press conference that are much more relevant now in my mind.

Continuing: "There are consequences when you do the wrong thing. Who would you hire? A guy you know is raping and pillaging the community and not representing your organization properly, or are you going to hire someone who has got talent and character? If we didn't do it that way, you would all kill us. That is not why we do it, but you would kill us because it's the right thing to be killed."

Does the arrest of a football player for armed robbery of two students rise to the level of a catastrophic event?? Or the arrest of two players within a week?? Are Jeremy Elder and Rashad Johnson "representing our organization" properly?? Especially in light of the history being developed, the embarrassment piling up for the program.

More Saban: "There is a value in doing the right thing,"

Agreed, Coach.

"and that there are consequences in doing the wrong thing. This is college football. We're supposed to be developing people here, we're supposed to get guys to graduate from school and go to school and do the right things and we're supposed to develop them into being the best competitors on the field that they can be."

Adopting an extreme tone of sarcasm, "Now if we're going to win at all costs, if that's the philosophy we're going to have, then we ought to take those first two and throw them out the window. I think that's what we should do. I think that's how we'll really be successful in the future. I really do.

A now extremely exercised Nick Saban rants on. "And I'll tell you what, that ain't ever gonna happen, not as long as I'm here. And if we can't win doing it the right way and gettin' guys to do the right things, then I won't be here. Ya'll won't want me to be here."

Spot on, Coach. When do we get started??

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