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The Justice Story Behind a College-Football Showdown

By       Message Roger Shuler       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

Millions of Americans will settle in front of their televisions tomorrow night to watch the biggest college football game of the young season--No. 7 Florida vs. No. 1 Alabama.

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The game will kick off at 7 in Tuscaloosa, about 60 miles southwest of our home base near Birmingham. I certainly plan to be watching, but my mind will not be focused totally on the game action. That's because I know some ugly truths about the University of Alabama's powerhouse football program--and I see signs that the nation gradually is starting to awaken to the story.

Alabama essentially has the finest coach, players, and facilities that money can buy, and I expect the Crimson Tide to lay a pretty serious whipping on the Gators tomorrow night. But what about, as Paul Harvey would say, the "rest of the story"? Well, it's coming out in bits and pieces--and it ain't pretty, especially when you start talking about big-name boosters and financial fraud.

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A dose of reality shined on the Alabama football program a few days ago when The Wall Street Journal reported that Coach Nick Saban has made it a practice to force certain players into accepting medical scholarships. Reporters Hannah Karp and Darren Everson write:

Former Alabama football players say the school's No. 1-ranked football program has tried to gain a competitive edge by encouraging some underperforming players to quit the team for medical reasons, even in cases where the players are still healthy enough to play.

At least 12 times since coach Nick Saban took over the program in 2007, Alabama has offered players a "medical" scholarship, according to public statements made by the team. These scholarships, which are allowed under NCAA rules, are intended to make sure scholarship athletes who are too injured to play don't lose their financial aid. A player who receives one of these scholarships is finished playing with that team.

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Three Alabama players who've taken these exemptions say they believe the team uses the practice as a way to clear spots for better players by cutting players it no longer wants. These players said they believe Mr. Saban and his staff pressure some players to take these scholarships even though their injuries aren't serious enough to warrant keeping them off the field.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)

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