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Thursday, June 18, 2009

University of Alabama Sleaze Starts at the Top

Here is a trivia question for you sports fans out there: What is the most corrupt major-college athletics program in the country?

Answer: The University of Alabama Crimson Tide.

UA, which was put on NCAA probation last week over a textbook-disbursement scandal, now has been hit with four major-infractions cases in the past 14 years. That's more than any other major university sports program.

Coaches, players, and athletics directors have come and gone over that time period. But what is the one constant? It's the University of Alabama Board of Trustees. The board's incompetence has infected the entire UA System, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where I worked until being unlawfully terminated from my job in the Publications Office.

Does the UA board ever learn from its mistakes? Apparently not.

We learn today that the university intends to appeal its most recent sanctions from the NCAA. Instead of trying to put its latest fiasco behind it, UA intends to appeal and shine more light on its lengthy history of athletics misdeeds.

That left Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky asking this question about UA President Robert Witt: Does Alabama President Care One Witt About Integrity?

The last thing Robert Witt wants to do at a press conference is answer questions, even on a day when the integrity of his institution has been called into question.


Instead, the president of the University of Arrogance chose merely to read a statement Thursday afternoon. In those 256 words, he made a statement that helps explain why his school leads the Football Bowl Subdivision with four major infractions cases in the last 14 years.

Through multiple presidents, athletics directors, coaches, administrators, student-athletes, boosters and sports.

Alabama has what Nick Saban might call a cultural problem.

It's a culture that demands doing the right thing--but only after you've been caught doing the wrong thing.


The names and faces change.

The attitude never seems to adjust.

Why does the attitude never adjust? Because the UA Board is always in charge. Witt is just their front man, a toady. It's the board members who have turned the UA System into a cesspool--and they keep it that way.

How sleazy is the UA sports enterprise? Scarbinsky puts it in perspective:

Witt put the latest public face on the problem Thursday when he said he was disappointed.

Not in the 201 different student-athletes who violated textbook distribution policies and thus broke NCAA rules.

Not in the athletic department administrators who failed to notice a 30 percent spike in textbook charges over a two-year period and thus failed to monitor that program.

Not in an athletic department that will have spent 16½ out of 19 years in the NCAA's repeat-violator window, from June 3, 1995, to Jan. 31, 2007, and from June 11, 2009, to June 10, 2014.

No, Witt pointed his disappointment in only one direction--at the NCAA Committee on Infractions. "We're disappointed in the severity of the penalties," he said.

You read that right. UA will spend almost 17 of 19 years with NCAA repeat-offender status. It can't get much worse than that.

But problems under the UA board hardly end with athletics. Regular readers of Legal Schnauzer know about the myriad problems that exist on the Birmingham campus. Here is a sampler:

* The UAB Health System announced that it is eliminating 245 jobs;

* That news came as we were reporting that court documents indicate UAB cheated the federal government out of roughly $600 million in a research-fraud scheme over about a 10-year period;

* UAB fosters a culture of deceit, which includes releasing apparently false public statements about the plans of departed Health System CEO David Hoidal;

* The Birmingham campus is beset with problems connected to human resources. These include: charges of fudging data on a salary study of female professors, charges of discrimination and violations of immigration law against medical residents from India, discrimination lawsuits by multiple veteran faculty and staff members, and apparent failure to discipline employees who used university computers to send racist and homophobic e-mail messages.

* Two UAB staff members, Drs. Thomas G. Spurlock and Francois Michel Blaudeau, are partners in a physical-therapy company that is alleged to be practicing health-care fraud. Federal-court documents charge that Performance Group LLC is involved in various forms of Medicare fraud. Joining Spurlock and Blaudeau as owners in the company is Homewood attorney Rob Riley, the son of Alabama Governor Bob Riley.

How bad are things on the University of Alabama Board of Trustees? One of its members owns a company that was implicated in a massive reinsurance-fraud scheme in Pennsylvania. Here's how we reported it at Legal Schnauzer:

If new attorney general Eric Holder and his troops are serious about going after business fraud, they might want to focus some resources on Alabama.

While recent public attention has focused on problems in the mortgage and banking sectors, Holder & Co. might want to focus on an under-the-radar industry that appears to be rife with corruption.

It's called reinsurance, and the Justice Department has a spotty record at policing the field over the past 10 years or so. Perhaps that record will improve in the future, and a good place to start would be Alabama.

That's because an Alabama company, which happens to be owned by a prominent member of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, was implicated in one of the government's largest and most successful prosecutions for reinsurance fraud.

The case, based in Pennsylvania, resulted in the 1997 conviction of Philadelphia lawyer and businessman Allen W. Stewart. The government was able to retrieve some $17 million through forfeiture proceedings.

Alabama connections in the Stewart matter were so strong that prosecutors and fraud experts from Alabama were deeply involved in the case.

If Alabama citizens ever grow tired of corruption from their flagship university system, they should push for a federal investigation. And it should start with the UA Board of Trustees.


Anonymous said...

You are EXACTLY right. Keep up the good work but understand you are vastly outnumbered by the redneck masses in this state who control the media.

Robby Scott Hill said...

That's right! In other states The Masses organize against The Capitalists, but in Alabama the idiots kiss their asses. This goes back to the unique brand of religious bigotry that is practiced in Alabama Churches like the one where your neighbor attends. When the Alabama People are conditioned to believe b.s. in the churches, it's no problem for the corporate media to brainwash them. Just sprinkle your message with "it's God's will" and "wait on The Lord" and the people will stand aside like zombies while the evil people laugh all the way to the bank.

When you can get people to

James Greek said...

No wonder I am an Auburn fan. Bu I have cousins who attend the University of Arrogance. And one is in law school. But don't hold it against me. I don't control their lives.