Mitchell: Bama/T-Town Menswear Controversy
Posted Jul 27, 2011

As the Alabama/T-Town Menswear controversy intensifies, CFN SEC Columnist Russ Mitchell says stop, drop and Roll. A beacon of reason in a sea of passionate extremism...someone hit that Easy button.

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me on Twitter @russmitchellcfb

Before we take up pitchforks and march on Bryant Denny, a little perspective might be in order.

Yes, the words perspective and Alabama football are rarely in bed together, but in the accelerating hype that is the T-Town Menswear/Suitgate saga, pause to breathe before rushing to judgment.

First, remember that UA's Athletics Department was a wee bit busy on Friday when this story broke on Head coach Nick Saban had just marched into the lobby of the Winfrey Hotel for SEC Media Days, a circus environment to say the least.

Moreover, while we're familiar with and appreciate Clay Travis's writing, and with respect, it's not like carries the weight of, say, Yahoo! Sports…although that may soon change.

So it's not at all surprising that Alabama took until Sunday to provide a copy of the cease and desist letter. Indeed, the fact that they delivered anything on a Sunday is more surprising.

Second, not that they wouldn't have been consulted or at least been in an email loop, but the A-team gets to work on Monday. In fact, given the impact of football in the south, and the summer festival that is Media Days, it's not a stretch to consider that some folks might have left for holiday Friday night – trying to squeeze in a quick vaca between that and fall practice.

Monday is the "first day of business", and the university came forward with the disassociation letter on Tuesday. It's entirely possible that the left hand wasn't completely talking to the right until then.

Third, simply put, Bama football is a lightning rod. It doesn't respond immediately to every full-time beat writer, let alone a reporter with whom many in the Alabama AD might not be completely familiar. Finally, to the many critical readers of these past 96 hours, you can't have it both ways - you can't slam the Tide for "always closing investigations too quickly", and then criticize them for taking the time to thoroughly examine the allegations.

The problem for Alabama is this story is sticky and getting stickier.

The disassociation letter raises as many questions as it answers and certainly doesn't absolve Alabama from any rule breaking, IF in fact any rules were broken.

The hand delivery aspect stinks to high heaven. Seriously? How amateur hour. Why wouldn't Bama deliver a letter of this significance via Certified Mail, which leaves a date trace and proof of delivery?

As to Moore's whereabouts at the time of said delivery, relax. Bama could have pre-dated the letter and had Moore sign it before leaving for the NIT Tournament, or had someone fly it back from NYC, or it could have been a stamp. Or any other number of possibilities. 1 and 1 only equals two if you're adding. Stop rushing to judgment.

But this letter suggests even more questions. For example, does Alabama have a policy to send these disassociation letters by Certified Mail? If so, why was that policy not followed this time? Has the university ever sent them via hand delivery in the past?

It also seems pretty clear that by any reasonable definition T-Town Menswear owner Tom Albetar was a booster – and that the university was very aware of his existence. Why hasn't the university addressed that?

Bottom Line: Tuesday's release raises more questions than it answers; it's neither a smoking gun nor a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. So why release it in the first place? Seems a bit of a distraction tactic, and that's a bit worrisome in and of itself.

Travis has written on the SEC for years now; on-line, in books and other print. He is an intelligent man, and knows he is taking on Goliath. But there's certainly a lot of smoke.

Still, let's wait for proof rules were broken before we burn the house down. Not just pictures of Alabama running back Trent Richardson eating Benihana with a booster. Pictures can be damning, but they often don't come near the complete…picture.

As to the gleeful, dare I write bloodthirsty, Auburn fans flooding my inbox with attack emails, a quick reminder that shouldn't be necessary: the Cam Newton controversy also had a lot of smoke and has so far resulted in very little (Danny Sheridan's bagman notwithstanding).

IF there's any reason for alarm, let's hope Alabama follows the recent lead of LSU's compliance office, and not that of Georgia Tech's. And until we get concrete proof (from the university or NCAA) of players taking benefits for associating with Albetar, put the pitchforks and torches down and step away from the rack.

Though as Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News wrote yesterday, why did so many Alabama football players sign so much stuff for one men's store owner?

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