The University of Alabama announced the NCAA's ruling on the Julio Jones and Mark Ingram case last night. After all the work Alabama did in its investigation and the evidence collected was presented, the NCAA decided that both players' eligibility would be reinstated once they paid restitution in the amount in question (less than $100 each) to the charity of their own choosing.
That’s great, right? I mean, it all worked out in the end in favor of the players and the university, just as the athletic department said it would.
So why do I still have a problem with the NCAA’s findings?
Pardon me a moment while I adjust my crimson-colored glasses.
According to the Birmingham News, the NCAA found that both players were guilty of a rules violation in which impermissible benefits were received from a person not affiliated with the university.
NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199.6 outlaws “Preferential treatment, benefits or services because of the individual’s athletics reputation or skill or pay-back potential as a professional athlete...” Basically what this means is that players can’t be treated better or given gifts because of their ability to play a sport.
Now I know that Alabama got a ruling in their favor. I understand that Jones and Ingram will both be playing football this season—although the NCAA reserves the right to revisit the investigation at a later time and retroactively suspend the players (see Derrick Rose at Memphis) if they so choose.
So why, you may ask, do I still have a problem with the NCAA’s ruling?
It’s simple, really. The bylaw that Jones and Ingram are supposed to have violated states specifically that the benefits or treatment must be received because of the player's ability or future earnings potential at the professional level.
Last time I checked, Curtis Anderson took the boys fishing because he was acquainted, friends, whatever you want to call it with Jones and Ingram and not because they were Alabama football players.
So even by the definition of the violation that is supposed to have occurred, Julio Jones and Mark Ingram did nothing wrong.
You see, if the NCAA agrees that there was a prior relationship between the players and Anderson—and they do agree that is the case—then they cannot say a violation occurred because Jones and Ingram were given special treatment or extra benefits because of their status as football players.
It can’t be both.
Are players not allowed to have friends anymore?
Once again, the NCAA has done the University of Alabama wrong, albeit in a backhanded sort of way, by still finding fault when their very own rules say no violation occurred. They sugarcoat it by allowing Jones and Ingram to keep playing, but it is still a slight to Alabama.
Don’t get me wrong—I am glad that Jones and Ingram are going to play this season. I’m relieved and elated. I’m just tired of the NCAA finding some way to smear Alabama every chance they get. If they want to investigate a fishing trip, they should be looking at Texas.