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Alabama is in Trouble, But is it Really That Bad?

In a turn of events that would surprise no one, Alabama found itself in hot water with the NCAA. The Tide has undeniably had some problems with staying on the right side of Myles Brand in recent history.

The good folks at Roll Bama Roll have an in-depth look at what happened, but basically athletes were giving out textbooks to non-athletes for free. They explain that the ordeal could have stemmed from some athletes misunderstanding the way the textbook distribution process works, but in the end it's up to the university to make sure the players know that very process.

I'm sure some people out there might read the headline and first paragraph of the AP story and assume that this is just another example of flouting authority by Alabama or the SEC in general. Is it really, though?

I mean, this has to do with players providing textbooks to friends. This is not about hundred dollar handshakes from boosters or the old "if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying" culture. Bama didn't mind its store well enough, and a small number of customers took advantage.

The graduate of business school in me agrees fully that this sort of thing shouldn't be happening. However, the recently-graduated student in me sympathizes with the intent.

Dealing with the textbook cartels is one of the worst part of being a student. Even going totally with used books a semester's load generally costs hundreds of dollars, and inevitably a professor or two will have chosen the newest edition of which no used copies exist. As students well know, authors and publishers tend to have this habit of changing roughly a chapter a year in order to pump out new editions and make money from every new class that goes through a university.

The online textbook market has helped some, and of course there's the old strategy of sharing books among friends. Neither is really an ideal situation.

After discovering what was going on, Bama decided to put compliance officials on the job during textbook distribution time for the time being. They fixed the problem and they'll probably pay some sort of price from the NCAA for it.

Maybe next we can sic the NCAA on the textbook cartels. After all, they negatively affect students nationwide far more than anything that went on while Alabama's storekeeper was asleep.