The University of Alabama is investigating the distribution of textbooks to athletes on scholarship in all sports after five football players were suspended for violating rules covering free books for course work.
The internal probe, announced in a news release Monday, is to determine if any scholarship athletes violated NCAA rules by obtaining more textbooks than they were allotted for their own classes.
The Alabama case surfaced just days after the NCAA put Ball State on probation for two years because of misuse by athletes in several sports of a textbook loan program.
Alabama starting offensive linemen Antoine Caldwell and Marlon Davis, tailback Glen Coffee and defensive backs Marquis Johnson and Chris Rogers were suspended for Alabama’s 41-17 victory over Tennessee on Saturday. University officials said the suspensions involved impermissible receipt of textbooks.
Head coach Nick Saban said Monday the players used “poor judgment,” but that the university’s textbook distribution system for athletes also failed the players.
“No one at the university wants me to say it, but it’s true,” Saban said in a speech to the Monday Morning Quarterback Club.
Athletic Department officials said the length of the suspensions for the five football players has not been determined. All five players will be permitted to practice with the football team, which is off this week and resumes practice Tuesday for the Nov. 3 game when No. 22 Alabama hosts No. 3 LSU.
“We had some guys use poor judgment in how they did it,” Saban said. “Now, the NCAA might see it as an extra benefit. We saw it, we reported it. But the system failed the players, too. If we call a bad play and it doesn’t work, we’re responsible.”
None of the players have been made available for comment.
There is no timetable for completion of the investigation, which could last throughout the week, said Doug Walker, the university’s media relations director.
In the Ball State case, the NCAA said last week the infractions involved 89 athletes in 10 sports from the spring semester of 2003 to the end of the 2004-05 school year. The athletes obtained $26,944 in books for classes in which they weren’t enrolled and, in some cases, got more than one copy of a book, which they gave to others, the NCAA said.
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