There was nothing evil at work, or at least nothing more evil than bureaucratic myopia and, perhaps, a little laziness on the part of UA athletic administrators who are, by the way, still UA athletic administrators. Every month, data came in from the Supply Store. Every month, it went from an administrative assistant (who was only looking for “correct code”) to an assistant athletic director to an associate athletic director, up the chain and out the door, rubber-stamped with no evidence of close scrutiny. Is that the ultimate crime? Not at all. But banality can be just as deadly as villainy.
-- Cecil Hurt, Tuscaloosa News, 6/11/09
Much of the horribly painstaking thoroughness in the execution of the Final Solution . . . characteristic of the perfect bureaucrat—can be traced to the odd notion . . . that to be law-abiding means not merely to obey the laws but to act as though one were the legislator of the laws that one obeys.
-- Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, p. 137
Along with the vacated wins from the 2005–2007 seasons (looking back to those seasons, some of those games appeared to be vacated before they were played), Alabama should keep the dustbins at hand and start vacating a few offices too. The University of Alabama athletic department has long held the, mostly valid, reputation as a holding pen for various Ministers without Portfolios, a bloated club of good ol’ boy sinecure positions that invites applicants based more on their bloodlines than their resumes.
The most polite detractors of these hard(ly) working folks have been content to replace them gradually as they die off, a piece-by-piece renovation that will one day reveal an entirely new model. One that befits the multimillion-dollar enterprise that UA athletics has become in today’s world of “amateur” sports. However, the time has come for a wholesale upgrade.
As Cecil Hurt, our resident taste-maker, noted yesterday, our memory of the vacated games will no longer match the record books—no real problem for a fan base that employs oral history as devotedly as Vedic priests—but our future is the real concern. While it may seem silly to believe there is a “competitive advantage” in playing athletes who picked up free textbooks for their girlfriends, the basis for an appeal should focus on the probation window, not the past.
Although most of the students who exploited the textbook system participated in sports that many Bama fans may not even know exist, the most egregious offenders, the ones who repeatedly and knowingly worked the loophole, were a handful of football players. It’s a testament to a few players’ ambition that they were able to scam the system so much that even arguably incompetent oversight found them out.
An ironically fitting rumor going around today is that only games through 2005 were vacated because the athletic department’s records did not extend further than four years ago. Finally, those fuck-ups are good for something!
Added all up, it’s hard to get too pissy with the NCAA over this. If anything, the head of the Committee on Infractions seemed a bit bewildered with what to do about such a minor incident given our major reputation, like busting John Dillinger for jaywalking.
But it’s that reputation that must be dealt with, especially now that the “repeat offender” clause has been re-activated until 2014. That’s five years or 1,826 days or 43,824 hours in which some senile blueblood who stirred Wallace Wade’s coffee or Paunchy Moneydonor III’s bastard son can doze off at the switch and screw up this good thing we’ve got going.
From day one on the job, the Great Leader has spoken of “The Process” of building a successful football program. He yammers on about it so much that the phrase is on nearly as many t-shirts as “Roll Tide” and “Yea Alabama!” He’s emphasized it to players, to recruits, to the press, even to the fans, but despite the price tag, he’s still just a football coach.
Should Mal Moore step down? He’s more of a bagman than an administrator anyway. He’s already raised the money needed to upgrade the stadium, the facilities, the basketball coach, pretty much anything he gives a damn about (sorry, baseball); so dumping him will affect the future about as little as those 21 vacated wins. But it’s past time for some coldhearted son of a bitch to step in and streamline things for the next five-year run.