Saban acknowledges Alabama needs to address off-field issues
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Off-the-field problems have been piling up for Alabama's football team.
Two players were arrested in a span of six days, one player has been dismissed and linebacker Prince Hall has been indefinitely suspended.
With spring practice approaching and a top-rated recruiting class recently wrapped up, coach Nick Saban still often finds himself dealing with Bama's bad behavior.
"It's a problem. It is a problem," Saban said Tuesday at a news conference. "Our team needs to have better discipline, judgment. We cannot tolerate poor judgment."
Our team needs to have better discipline, judgment. We cannot tolerate poor judgment.
The latest incidents have included the arrest of All-Southeastern Conference safety Rashad Johnson on disorderly conduct charges after he allegedly pushed a security guard to the ground at a bar in the off-campus district called the Strip early last Saturday morning.
Plus, Saban said Tuesday he has kicked freshman defensive tackle Jeremy Elder off the team following his recent arrest for allegedly robbing two other students at gunpoint. He said Hall has been suspended for "violation of team rules and policies related to his behavior" and won't participate in spring practice or the team's offseason program.
Hall has started 13 games over the past two seasons.
"At some point in the future, we'll determine what his future in this program really is," Saban said.
The recent problems were only the latest incidents for the Tide. All told, eight players have been arrested in the nearly 14 months since Saban's hiring, five for disorderly conduct.
He did indicate that Johnson, a team captain, would not face suspension. The arrest of one of the team's stars and leaders was another public black eye on the program, though.
"Regardless of how many people got arrested this week on the Strip, there was only one on ESPN, only one on Fox Sports and only one all over the state of Alabama in every newspaper," Saban said. "The consequences for his behavior and the responsibility that he has and the opportunity that he has is far greater.
"It's the price that we all play to have that opportunity. We cannot continue to have these kinds of issues and problems in the future."
Most of the arrests have stemmed from incidents on or near the Strip. Saban said if the problems continue, he might consider imposing more restrictions on his players. He called Johnson "as fine a person as we have on our football team."
"I've said enough is enough and we're trying to fix it," Saban said. "But Rashad Johnson does not need to get suspended from the team. I'm not saying what he did was right. I'm saying he put himself at risk in a bad situation.
"He has a due process to go through and he is not guilty until he goes through that due process. I think this is America and I think we're allowed to do that even though you all [reporters] have already convicted him of doing something terribly wrong."
Four players arrested before last season on mostly similar charges were not suspended for any games. There were plenty of others forced to sit out for off-the-field behavior.
"We've had 30 games missed by players last year for suspensions," Saban said. "That may be an NCAA record. We're heading in that direction again next year."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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