Forum Classics

The Future by way of the past, Part 2

Posted by Xen Scott on February 06, 2003

A note: I noticed some people think this is opening old wounds or covering old territory. I started this to profer some thoughts about the coming years and where we need to go. But I don't honestly think that can be done without laying out a complete picture of how we got here. Without it, I think we all reach simplistic conclusions about the nature and depth of the mess we are in and subsequently how to get out of it. I also think blame lies everywhere and there has been too much scapegoating of single individuals over the years. We all need to look in the mirror first, as do the people who weild some control over this thing. If it hurts too much, don't read it. It hurts me to write it.

Part Two – The Arrow Falls

The whole Debbiegate saga is well known by now. What may not be known is that the mishandling of that situation was the first nail in Sorensen’s coffin. Beyond the embarrassment caused the University, the loss of Mike’s credibility with his players and the Bama community, the settling of the lawsuit unilaterally by Andy sent several BOT members into apoplexy (Fine, Drummond, MacMahon, McDonald). The fact that Sorensen hadn’t even consulted the Board and they simply saw the settlement and the deal with Mike in the paper was signal that Sorensen’s blank check with the athletic department had gone far enough.

At this point they formed the athletic oversight committee to clip Andy’s wings and keep an eye on him. It was this same group who ultimately forced the issue with Bockrath shortly thereafter. Furthermore, while Sorensen was allowed to hire a new AD, there was clearly some influence exerted from these and other quarters to bring some stability and Bama blood back to the AD’s position by hiring Mal. Sorensen didn’t want Moore, but eventually moved there to save his own weakened hide. All the while he was stuffing his resume in envelopes trying to get out of Hickville.

While the football program was home alone, they were not without parents. So much has been made of Gene and Marie and their roles in our final downfall. I honestly can’t say that they aren’t anything but another manifestation of the same tensions that existed between the so called good ole boys, the Department, and Sorensen.

For better or worse, Marsh had enormous power as a result of our probation and his position on the infractions committee. The compliance regime that was put into place was ostensibly to keep us out of trouble. Truth was, it was just another way for Sorensen to keep his thumb on the rednecks striving to run the football program. Marsh and Robbins had little use for what they viewed as the jock culture at the U of A. Furthermore, they were convinced that everyone associated with UA athletics was crooked. Unfortunately, they had little appreciation for the unwritten rules of college football and even less understanding of what other schools thought of the rules – nothing.

This situation was an explosive mixture. Ronnie running amuck with the boosters, a vacuum in the President’s mansion, overall weakness and lack of initiative and strategic acumen in the Department and two people who were convinced of the fundamental corruption of those involved in this “seamy” business who had a blank check from the president’s mansion to elevate an expired elevator certificate to an NCAA self reported violation.

Marsh wasn’t helping things by telling people that Ronnie was going to get us into trouble. In contrast, certain boosters were saying it would be over their dead bodies before Ronnie left. The collision course was inevitable.

Mike had mentally checked out on football after the Debbie thing. In fact, most of the 99 season, he didn’t muck around very much with what little game planning went on. Thanks to some super seniors he actually won an SEC championship. Yet, the cracks were visible everywhere even then. First, a star system had developed because Mike had given Shaun star status the previous spring to keep him around. Players had come to expect that upper classmen had earned some sort of special privileges as far as depth charts, practice habits, work outs, etc. This was only further exacerbated by Ronnie and Mike promising kids whatever they wanted to get their signatures. Kids were showing up on campus with an attitude that they were owed something before they ever laced up the first pair of sneakers.

Mike decided he was a genius after the SECCG, therefore he started to coach again in the Orange Bowl. They went to Miami with the idea that a win would make them a pre-season #1 – what they got was a nightmare. With Chris Samuels unwilling or unable to play a key and almost irreplaceable cog was lost. The coaches were at each other’s throats over the spoils of success. As a result, we flat got out coached, out prepared and beat by a team that shouldn’t have beat us.

Meanwhile, Mal had been made AD and the pieces seemed to be falling into place for improving the facilities. However, Sorensen kept a lid on the facilities improvements and made it clear that at most only a cosmetic amount of money, if any, would be spent on the facilities. Furthermore, he kept bleeding operating funds out of the Department’s revenues and further starving the operation - practice that should have ceased 20 years ago. Sorensen also kept his informants pipeline flowing to the President’s mansion to keep an eye on the Neanderthals.

Despite this, Mal plugged along doing what he could do to move the ball in an impossible situation – he couldn’t buck the President, had Gene and Marie up his coaches’ rear all the time, Title IX obligations and a broke department, and a bureaucracy in the Department that was ossified, depleted of good people from Bockrath, and incapable of forward thinking.

In the off season we had the much ballyhooed class of 2000. In reality, it was a bunch made up of marginal academic cases, recruits no one else really thought could play football that they sold to the recruiting gurus as 5 star prospects, and a few legit big timers. What it was short on was qualifiers and great FOOTBALL players. There were warning signs about a couple of players for months before signing day. – especially Albert Means and Harold James. Roy Adams internet material was out there for months about Means. My alarm bell went off when I heard that Lynn Lang wouldn’t let Albert go to the Hula Bowl with the Rivals 100 b/c they wouldn’t pay him a 5K stipend. Why we went there, right or wrong, I’ll never know. The screaming from Tenn., Fl., Ark. And others was at a fever pitch. Yes, they were scared of us. But the screaming happened and people in Indy listened.

I heard about Harold James academic problems months before he signed – and they were severe. I also heard about Justin Smiley and the truck weeks before it hit the news – that from a Florida booster. With all this stuff floating around it’s almost inevitable that something was going to blow. Especially when our compliance department gave the NCAA every impression that we were rotten to the core – or at least more so than anyone else in the SEC.

Now throw in the “Juicy”. Juicy Locke had had his hand out ever since he got to Tuscaloosa. Eric signing with Alabama was a huge embarrassment to Fulmer and one that set him off for good (along with the Melrose stuff) on Logan. With juicy, nothing was free and his sorry self quickly washed out of his job in Tuscaloosa and he went to shakedowns to make a living. When he was turned down enough, he put out feelers up North and was assured that he would be taken care of if Eric transferred to UT. He did.

What Juicy says now is largely true. It is apparent that Fulmer really wanted Eric and Juicy to drop a dime on Bama. Furthermore, Juicy had written an embittered letter to numerous people about his alleged shabby treatment by Bama – even going so far as to mention Fernando Bryant and stripper parties. What is amazing is that none of those letters ever became public until last year when Tennessee was feeling the heat. But I am convinced that one ended up in Indy and that is what pushed the final rock downhill.

Next – The End of DuBose, Sorensen and Fraud’s First Year.