February 20, 2011
[UPDATE, 11:07 p.m. ET] An Alabama spokesman, directly contradicting the Oklahoman report linked below and "an SEC offical" who told the site Sports by Brooks that Alabama planned to report a violation this week, wrote to Al.com's Izzy Gould tonight that the school had looked into the younger Sanders' appearance on the video board and "determined that no violation was committed." For now, that's one more wrist spared a slap.
Confronted with the reality of barrier-crumbling technology in the hands of every coach, player and recruit this side of Joe Paterno, the NCAA's consistent response over the last five years has been to erect the barriers itself. The result has been a flowering of nitpicky citations against coaches for punching the wrong button, returning the wrong phone call, posting rogue Facebook messages, etc. – and that's in the SEC alone over the past year.
By contrast, the medium behind Alabama's latest trip down the darkest, narrowest back passages of rulebook seems almost antiquated: The jumbotron. University officials started the paperwork Saturday night, when the video operators got a little overexcited by the presence of famous son and hyped 2012 running back prospect Barry J. Sanders along with his Hall-of-Fame father during the Crimson Tide's basketball win over Arkansas. From the Oklahoman, in Sanders' home state:
During his visit to Alabama, Sanders was shown on the video board during the basketball game, sitting alongside Alabama football coach Nick Saban. Sanders' image prompted Alabama fans to cheer and start a “We Want Barry!” chant in the student section.
It was not a violation for Sanders and Saban to be sitting together at the basketball game. However, putting Sanders' image on the video board is a violation of NCAA rule 13.11.5 that says: "An institution may not introduce a visiting prospect at a function (e.g., the institution's sports award banquet or an intercollegiate athletics contest) that is attended by media representatives or open to the general public."
Unlike Sanders' last encounter with Saban – in which the Napoleonic coach was (wrongly) accused of flouting rules governing contact with junior recruits when he stopped by Sanders' high school in January to break the news that starting running back Mark Ingram would be declaring for the NFL Draft the following week – this weekend's snafu is a real secondary violation. A dumb one, but real: Alabama will report it to the NCAA, agree to some pro forma "discipline" along the lines of remedial video board training or something and continue its pursuit of one of the nation's most coveted players unabated. No harm, no foul, unless you're the one doing the paperwork.
Not so for assistant coaches at Miami: According to the Miami Herald, the university is responding to a pending case of illegal text messaging to football, baseball and track prospects by monitoring coaches' cell phone records (the phones are likely issued by the school) and levying a $100 fine for every illegal text to a recruit. It's like a "swear jar" of NCAA compliance. I'd like to know what Uncle Luke thinks about that.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.