TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama has told the NCAA that athletes improperly got free textbooks for other students and that the school failed to adequately monitor distribution.
The university said Thursday that the hearing before the Committee on Infractions was held on Feb. 20. The university reported the violations after uncovering them during the 2007 football season, when five players were suspended.
The university admitted in its 67-page response to the NCAA's notice of allegations that infractions occurred in several sports and that it didn't adequately monitor its distribution of textbooks to athletes.
The NCAA letter, dated May 19, 2008, said the allegations against Alabama were potentially major. They included allowing athletes to improperly receive textbooks and other supplies, failure to monitor textbook distribution and to provide adequate education on the rules to athletes and employees at the university bookstore.
The violations allegedly occurred from the 2005-06 school year through the fall of 2007, which means the university could be punished as a repeat violator. The football program was placed on probation on Feb. 1, 2002.
"Compliance with NCAA and SEC rules is of the utmost importance to the University of Alabama and our athletics department, and I am pleased with the way our compliance officers handled this situation," Alabama President Dr. Robert Whitt said in a statement. "UA works diligently to ensure that integrity and a commitment to excellence are the hallmarks of our athletics program."
Alabama suspended five football players for four games for using their athletic scholarships to get free textbooks for others. The names of the football players and other athletes and sports involved were blacked out in documents made public Thursday because of federal privacy laws. The university said some athletes intentionally broke rules.
"These intentional wrongdoers knew that they were taking advantage of the university and its Supply Store," the university said in its response to the NCAA. "However, these student-athletes believed that because the textbooks were either returned to the Supply Store or charged to them if not returned, no NCAA rules were implicated by their conduct."
The university said none of the textbooks or materials were used for profit or to get items not related to academics, and that the athletes involved who still have eligibility remaining have had to pay restitution.
Alabama said it has since required NCAA compliance officials to be present during all periods for student-athletes to pick up textbooks.
The violations were uncovered after an Alabama Supply Store employee noticed that one athlete had more than $1,600 in charges for the fall semester of 2007.
The hearing was first reported by The Tuscaloosa News Thursday.