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(Non-)Issues at Alabama Highlight Change in NCAA Perception

Alabama has had a run of potential NCAA issues. That no one cares about them shows how things have changed.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport's Jeremy Fowler wrote an interesting piece that published this morning about how Alabama is not really receiving any blowback from a few recent NCAA issues: D.J. Fluker receiving gifts from agents, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix getting a loan from an employee, and Tom Al-Betar surfacing again and selling memorabilia of current players.

Fowler dubs the program the "Teflon Tide" and notes that none of these recent issues seem to be sullying the program's reputation. I don't really find it all that remarkable for a number of reasons. Some are specific to Alabama, and some aren't.

The reason why the Fluker issue hasn't stuck is because there has been no follow up on it at all. Fowler reports that the NCAA isn't even investigating it because no one will talk. We've seen far more explosive allegations end up leading to nothing in recent years, so this one isn't going to keep sizzling without any further details. As for Clinton-Dix, I don't think anyone cares because the loan truly was a loan, and the amount of money was pretty small. Finally with Al-Betar, nothing came of it the last time he caused trouble, and back then, he had pictures of a then-current player signing stuff in his store. There isn't much meat on these bones.

With these and more over the past few years, Alabama compliance has been really on the ball. It has been remarkably prepared for when the news comes out, and it basically shuts down the stories right when they start as a result. They've not been caught flatfooted that I've seen, and that really makes a difference. Plus, Nick Saban's persona helps out with the image. He's very detail oriented, and he doesn't have a reputation as a cheat like Jackie Sherrill or someone like that. Fair or not, the public image of a head coach goes a long way here. It's why the scandal at Ohio State was such a shock a few years back; Jim Tressel's public image of being a boring, by-the-books type made it easier for people to think that nothing bad would go on under his watch.

It's not just an Alabama thing, though. It's also an NCAA thing.

The NCAA has been losing credibility in its enforcement quite a bit in recent years. It looked like it was really stepping things up with its monumental penalties on USC for the Reggie Bush scandal, but it hasn't matched those sanctions anywhere else since except for Penn State (which is a whole other story).

  • A couple of recent Heisman winners seemed to get into trouble—Cam Newton's dad shopping him and Johnny Manziel signing improbably high numbers of autographs if he wasn't getting paid—but nothing ever came of it.
  • Yahoo! Sports served up a decade-long scandal at Miami on a silver platter, but the NCAA botched things up anyway and didn't levy anything as bad as USC got for Bush despite a huge disparity of evidence between the two cases.
  • That Ohio State case looks awfully fishy, with players getting to play a bowl game but being suspended for games in the forthcoming year. It looked like the NCAA was trying to protect business interests ahead of its own values.
  • I really don't want to get into the details of Penn State, but there were plenty of people who thought the NCAA didn't have the jurisdiction to do what it did. At the very least, Mark Emmert made up a lot of stuff as he went along.
  • Remember that academic scandal at UNC? The one that's still festering even now? The NCAA isn't doing a thing about it.

In short, the NCAA has lost nearly all of its credibility on the big stuff, if it hasn't lost it entirely. Is it any wonder, then, that people can't be bothered to worry about a player getting a loan of between $100 and $300 from an employee? Bobby Petrino hiring his mistress to a football staffing job is far more distressing than that.

In that light, it's not hard to guess why Alabama isn't getting a reputation for being out of control despite three NCAA issues cropping up in the last five months. Thanks in large part to the NCAA's own actions, it's getting progressively harder to care about these kinds of things. Call them the Teflon Tide if you want, but it's more a symbol of how the tide of public opinion has turned decidedly against the NCAA in general.