It’s uncertain what punishment — if any — Alabama could face after it was revealed last week in federal court documents that an alleged payment of $5,000 was made to former star player Collin Sexton by an aspiring sports agent.
But one former university athletics compliance director believes the Crimson Tide will be in the crosshairs of the NCAA.
“Taking the rules as they are now, and if this indeed did happen, and you have to believe some of it is probably true…then there will likely will be some NCAA sanctions, right?” said David Ridpath, an Ohio University professor who oversaw athletics compliance at both Weber State and Marshall. “What those could be could range from the typical scholarship reductions, recruiting restrictions, probation — all of the above could happen.”
Vacated wins — and what Ridpath called a “slap on the wrist” — also could be a possible punishment if Sexton was the only person connected to Alabama found culpable. But Ridpath, an expert on NCAA matters, could only see that kind of lighter penalty being imposed if there is no proof anyone on head coach Avery Johnson’s staff knew Sexton had received extra benefits.
Sexton has been linked to an FBI probe into college basketball corruption before he even played a regular-season game at Alabama. Last September, Crimson Tide basketball administrator Kobie Baker resigned following an FBI complaint that revealed he had accepted money from a financial advisor to influence the father of a “highly regarded” Atlanta-area player to push his son to sign with the advisor. Sexton, who is from Mableton, Ga. — a suburb of Atlanta — was then held out of an exhibition game and suspended for the season opener against Memphis. He was subsequently made eligible and played 33 times, leading the Tide with a scoring average of 19.2 points per game.
After guiding Alabama to the second round of the NCAA tournament, he entered the NBA draft and was selected with the eighth overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers. But even after he moved on to the pros, Sexton still cast a long shadow over the Tide.
That became even clearer last Thursday, when ESPN reported evidence produced by the federal government in a New York court showed Christian Dawkins, a former runner for NBA agent Andy Miller, acknowledging giving Sexton $5,000 and concocting a plan to pay the former Alabama guard $1,500 per month, supply $21,000 in travel expenses for his family and provide his brother a job that would net him a total of $170,000 over four years.
Alabama declined to comment on the situation last week.
A former NCAA official told AL.com that if an Alabama staff member was involved in the scheme then there could be institutional implications for the Tide, but added that vacated wins could be the only punishment handed down if Sexton was the sole person implicated and thus determined to be ineligible.
Still, Ridpath noted penalties could be levied even if Alabama wasn’t aware Sexton received money.
“It might be hard to completely connect those dots,” Ridpath said. “But there is always the thing of what did they know? What should have they known? Did they have institutional control?”
It could take a while before the NCAA gets those answers as they examine allegations involving a number of programs, according to Ridpath. The FBI probe has ensnared notable names across the sport and caused staff changes at multiple schools, including Auburn, Louisville, Oklahoma State and Arizona. But Ridpath’s gut feeling is that Alabama will be punished to some extent.
“My guess,” Ridpath said, “is there will be at least some penalty.”
Rainer Sabin is an Alabama beat writer for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin