'Bama escapes death penalty, gets 2-year bowl ban

Saturday, February 2, 2002

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The NCAA placed Alabama on five years' probation Friday, jolting the program Bear Bryant built into a power with a two-year bowl ban and heavy scholarship reductions.

The governing body said it considered giving the Crimson Tide the most severe punishment -- the death penalty -- under the repeat violator rules for a recruiting scandal in which boosters were accused of paying money for prep players.

"They were absolutely staring down the barrel of a gun," said Thomas Yeager, chairman of the infractions committee.

"These violations are some of the worst, most serious that have ever occurred," he said.

The university, which was accused of 11 major violations -- one was later withdrawn -- and five minor charges under two former coaches, said it would appeal.

President Andrew Sorensen said university officials "are firm in our belief that the penalties are inappropriate."

"We regret that we must prolong this process, but the decision we have been given today is simply unacceptable," Sorensen said.

Barring a successful appeal, the program that leads the nation in bowl appearances (51) and wins (29) will miss the postseason for consecutive years for the first time since 1957 and 1958, the year Bryant arrived in Tuscaloosa.

The Tide contested the two most publicized charges involving claims of boosters making five-figure payments to lure two recruits.

But it admitted some violations and imposed penalties on itself, including a reduction of 15 scholarships over three years and the temporary disassociation of three boosters at the heart of the recruiting scandal.

The university-imposed sanctions did not include a postseason ban.

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