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Tide waits on NCAA

With Dennis Franchione's University of Alabama football team set to kick off the 2002 season Saturday with a matchup against Middle Tennessee State,

Crimson Tide fans are optimistic about a team returning much depth and experience at key positions.

Overall expectations for Franchione's second Tide team, however, have been somewhat tempered considering the Tide's current status of limbo with the NCAA Appeals Committee.

There is no doubt that Bama, coming off a 7-5 record and an Independence Bowl victory over Iowa State,

has much talent returning in the form of standouts such as Tyler Watts, Santonio Beard, Kendall Morehead, Jarrett Johnson and Wesley Britt.

Many scribes are doubtful, though, whether there will be ample motivation for the Tide to succeed if there is no bowl game or conference championship to play for.

Of course the final determination of the Tide's bowl and conference championship eligibility has yet to be totally determined, and it will likely be several weeks before the governing body of collegiate athletics puts an end to Alabama's agonizing wait and makes a decision one way or the other.

The reviews of Alabama's recent appeal to the NCAA, however, have been mixed at best.

While many people seemed to agree that the most recent sanctions passed down by the NCAA on the Tide football program were unjustified and that an appeal was certainly warranted, one has to wonder if perhaps if the University was overly arrogant and insolent with its remarks concerning the appeal.

Alabama's legal defense team argued that the program's penalties, which included lack of postseason eligibility for two years and six extra scholarship reductions, should be greatly reduced if not eliminated due to various reasons including, the fact that the NCAA's Committee on Infractions handed down harsh sanctions on the program despite the fact that boosters were more at fault than the institution itself and that Alabama is the only school to receive a two-year bowl ban in the absence of the dreaded "lack of institutional control" charge.

The Tide's lawyers also argued college institutions and the NCAA should be working together, and not against each other,

to promote a spirit of compliance in collegiate athletics.

All of these arguments perhaps have merit, but there does not appear to be much sympathy toward the Crimson Tide's cause from those outside the university.

Alabama never failed to flaunt its formerly pristine image as a college football 'sacred cow,'

but regrettably the Crimson Tide's image has gone the way of the Southeastern Conference, with many now comparing the SEC to the former scandal-plagued Southwest Conference.

So when the Tide's lawyers issued their latest round of arguments, many belittled the Tide program, saying those arguments were just the latest whinings of a school caught yet again.

Personally, I feel the Alabama program has a better than average shot of getting at least one year of bowl eligibility back, which I think would be appropriate, as none of the current Tide players or coaches were involved with any of the past indiscretions that brought forth the sanctions.

Even if that were to happen, however, I still feel it will take some time before the Crimson Tide is able to rebuild its once-proud image.

Stan J. Griffin is a reporter and columnist for The Andalusia Star-News.