The individuals and teams are unrelated. The incidents and crimes, varied. None of it should define the many people who haven’t done anything but the right thing. They could fairly argue each thing occurred in a vacuum.
It’s just that the vacuum shares a common base location: Tuscaloosa.
Alabama’s high-powered athletic department has gone through a five-month spell of off-field and off-court trouble that rivals nearly any in college athletics.
The latest came Thursday when the school announced it had “initiated the termination process for head baseball coach Brad Bohannon for, among other things, violating the standards, duties and responsibilities expected.”
No specific reason was given, but the termination of Bohannon, who was in his sixth season at Alabama, comes three days after gambling regulators in Ohio banned sportsbooks in the state from taking wagers on the Crimson Tide baseball team. Other sports wagering outfits, including FanDuel nationally, soon followed.
According to NOLA.com, suspicions arose after two large bets (one a parlay, one on the moneyline) were placed in Cincinnati on favored LSU to defeat Alabama in a game played last Friday. According to ESPN, Alabama scratched its starting pitcher close to first pitch. LSU took an 8-1 lead and held on for a 8-6 victory.
Sports wagering is a heavily regulated and monitored industry, so it is expected that regulatory bodies and federal and local law enforcement will continue to investigate the situation.
A fired baseball coach is just the latest turmoil for the athletic department which, mostly due to its historic football program, stands as a flagship in not just the SEC but the NCAA as a whole. The department brought in $214.3 million in revenue for fiscal 2022, third most in the country.
The tragedies include the Jan. 15 death of Jamea Harris, a 23-year-old single mom, who was caught up in an early morning shootout on the Strip just steps from the UA campus which involved numerous men’s basketball players.
One, junior Darius Miles, was charged with capital murder in the incident. Two others, Brandon Miller and Jaden Bradley, were also on the scene at the time of the shooting, although neither were charged with a crime and were considered witnesses.
The university did not conduct its own investigation into the situation and were blindsided a month later when a Tuscaloosa detective revealed that it was Miller, the team’s star freshman, who brought the would-be murder weapon to the scene of the crime at the request of Miles. Even then, Miller was never disciplined or sat down by coach Nate Oats. He continued to play until the top-seeded Tide were upset in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
Miles is being held without bond in a local jail and faces the death penalty if convicted. Miller has declared for the 2023 NBA Draft. Bradley transferred to Arizona.
Last month, one of their expected replacements got into his own trouble. Jaykwon Walton, who had committed to the program after transferring from Wichita State, was arrested in Tuscaloosa after police found marijuana and three guns in a vehicle in which he was sitting.
In Alabama, the marijuana was against the law, although the unregistered guns were not. Either way, Oats immediately cut ties and declared in a statement that “Alabama is no longer recruiting” Walton.
Meanwhile, just last week, Alabama’s deputy director of athletics, Matt Self, was arrested on a third-degree domestic violence charge after Tuscaloosa police were called to his home. Self was in charge of NCAA rules compliance and administering the football program. He was released on Monday. He had previously been arrested in 2010 on a misdemeanor DUI.
Even Nick Saban’s usually steady football program has made some unwelcome headlines, at least with future and past players.
In March, defensive back recruit Tony Mitchell was charged in Florida with possession of marijuana with intent to sell and/or deliver after leading law enforcement on a high-speed chase that police alleged reached 141 mph. His passenger in the vehicle was charged with carrying a concealed firearm without a permit.
Saban suspended Mitchell after the incident.
And just this week, former Tide star Henry Ruggs declared his intention to plead guilty to DUI resulting in death for a 2021 crash in Las Vegas that took the life of 23-year-old Tina Tintor. Ruggs, who starred for the Tide from 2017-2019, was playing for the Las Vegas Raiders at the time. He was found to be drunk driving his Corvette 156 mph on a city street with a 45 mile per hour speed limit, according to police. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
That’s a fired coach, a capital murder case, a death from DUI, a domestic violence charge and all sorts of drugs and guns surrounding one school.
They may be largely unrelated and shouldn’t stain everyone in Tuscaloosa or define the goals and culture of the UA athletic department. But that’s a lot for a single school in such a short period of time.
If you are a Crimson Tide fan, let alone one of the many law abiding athletes and coaches, you have to wonder what might be coming next.
Hopefully it’s nothing more, although additional details are likely to emerge from the various cases and investigations, especially what did or didn’t happen within the baseball program and the night of Harris’ murder.
The storms seem to still be gathering for the Tide.