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NCAA Football: Alabama Dissociates Store Owner Who Didn't Violate NCAA Rules

This is something you just don't see every day.  Alabama dissociated a store owner who was having players legitimately sign some items which he displayed, but did not sell.  The weird part is that the owner, Tom Albetar, wasn't even a Crimson Tide booster:

An Alabama source said Albetar was not deemed a booster, and the university can send a disassociation letter to anyone.

Okay, so Alabama says it can dissociate anyone, and apparently, if you show off your autographed hat in your business, you may get a "cease and desist" letter, even if you are not breaking any rules.

"Our review of this matter was a part of our normal compliance program," Ward said. "We routinely look at all situations of potential concern. Based on our review of this matter, we concluded that Mr. Albetar was in compliance with NCAA regulations. It is not a violation for student-athletes to sign autographs and it is not a violation for a business to display photos, jerseys or other items depicting current student-athletes. We found no evidence that any student-athlete received any extra benefits."

The guy apparently broke no rules, isn't a booster, and yet the University sees fit to dissociate him.  That's just strange.

Clay Travis at Outkick The Coverage has evidently been doing and investigation on this matter, and has some interesting, albeit somewhat questionable conclusions.  But I did find this intriguing:

Also, Alabama fans, are you really rejoicing over the fact that a booster of your program was disassociated? Make no mistake, by the way, you can't disassociate a non-booster. That letter proves that Alabama believes Albetar is a booster. And you're really, rejoicing? Have you no conception of reality? Alabama's announcement last night proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the NCAA is going to come to town and scrutinize this situation.

Well, yes, Clay, Alabama apparently can dissociate non-boosters.  They say they can dissociate anybody, booster or no, and I can't see any reason why what Alabama said is wrong -- just because dissociation letters normally go to boosters who have violated NCAA rules doesn't mean they must always do so. 

Honestly, though, OKTC does make compelling arguments that Albetar was a booster, although for my money, the NCAA definition of booster is so vague it could mean almost anything.  I figure both Alabama and Travis have about the same chance of being right, so I'm not going to gainsay either of them. 

There is also a lot of smoke around Albetar's activities with some members of the football team that should alarm a compliance department, whether there are any rules being broken or not. Appearances can be deceiving, but they can also draw NCAA attention.  For example, some players have been photographed out on the town with Albetar, and allegedly signed memorabilia, like jerseys and such, that were later sold to the public.  Theoretically, as long as the players did not receive a benefit (either a free dinner or money) in return for the autographs and took steps to stop the sale of such items sold without their knowledge or consent (NCAA bylaw, Alabama should be in the clear.

Travis points out that it would be hard for the players not to have known about the sale of the items, but what he's really arguing about is the timing, and whether or not Alabama took action timely.  According to my understanding of the facts, they did take action, and it seems timely (although of question of effectiveness is another matter).  Selling autographed school merchandise, if not obtained in return for payment or other consideration, is not an NCAA violation per se unless the school knows about it and does nothing.  That doesn't seem to be the case here.

It's fairly obvious, though, that Travis has incurred the wrath of the Elephants much as Pete Thamel has drawn the ire of Kentucky fans, and with the way Travis berates them in his posts on the matter, he's really fanning that flame like crazy.  If I were him, I would think twice about showing up anywhere near Tuscaloosa for any reason, or he might find his head dissociated from the rest of his body and displayed on a pole.