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June 19, 2011

HURT: Vacated wins can create a nightmare


I have no problem writing about summer vacation, but I didn't expect it to be this sort of "vacation" I would be covering.

A mini-controversy of sorts arose last week when the University of Kentucky was contacted about an error in the way it calculated the career record of its basketball coach, John Calipari. UK celebrated Calipari's 500th career win as a college coach last February, but it failed to account for the fact that Calipari has had over 40 victories vacated due to institutional NCAA rules violations while he was at Massachusetts and Memphis (not at Kentucky).

After an exchange of correspondence, UK agreed with the NCAA - what else was it going to do? In addition, UK said that it would reflect the vacated wins in all future publications.

However, a report in the wake of that decision seemed to indicate that other schools didn't accurately reflect their own coaches' vacated records, including the University of Alabama. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported, correctly, that Nick Saban's biography on the official UA athletics website credited Saban with wins in five games that the NCAA ordered to be vacated in the 2007 season.

UA had to vacate its wins in 2005, 2006 and the early part of the 2007 season because of NCAA violations found in its textbook distribution program.

There is more to the story, though.

All of UA's printed publications, including its 2010 media guide and the bowl media guide prepared for the 2011 Capital One Bowl, removed the five vacated victories from Saban's college coaching record, and also reflect in full the vacated status of 21 games in the 2005-07 time span in historical data about UA.

"All of our printed material is correct," said Doug Walker, UA associate athletic director for media relations. "We have consulted with the NCAA prior to any publication of our media guides and have been completely compliant. In the wake of the situation at Kentucky, we have become aware of a technical issue with our on-line site, and we will correct that discrepancy."

The online version of Saban's biography had not been updated since before the 2010 season, but will reflect his NCAA-approved record as a college coach, which is 129-53-1, Walker said.

The 2011 Capital One Bowl media guide printed by UA contains the correct records on pages 86 and 87, which include Saban's biography and season-by-season record. Alabama is listed as having finished the 2007 season with a 2-6 record, since that season's wins over Tennessee and Colorado were not vacated.

The subject of vacated and forfeited wins has been an issue at Alabama since the NCAA mandated that the entire 1993 season (except a Gator Bowl win over North Carolina) be forfeited. (Forfeits actually turn games won or tied into losses. Vacation simply expunges any record of games won, and is usually imposed for the use of ineligible players.) All told, its two brushes with the NCAA - in the 1993 Antonio Langham case and the 2007 textbook case - have cost Alabama 29 victories and a tie. The Capital One Bowl media guide accurately reflects UA's all-time record according to the NCAA, which is now 802-319-43.

If not for the forfeits and vacated games, Alabama would have 831 all-time wins and would be tied for fifth in the all-time NCAA annals. The Crimson Tide's 802 wins is the eighth-best total in NCAA history, although Alabama may make up significant ground on at least one of the seven teams ahead of it in the near future. There is no certainty as to what will happen in the pending Ohio State case before the NCAA, but it's a pretty safe bet that some wins will be whittled off the Buckeyes' current total of 831.

Kentucky fans feel like the Wildcats were "singled out" by the NCAA on this issue, possibly because of Calipari's high profile. That is possible, and if it happened, it isn't right. But Saban is a pretty high-profile coach as well and Alabama is trying to make sure his record is listed in the way the NCAA wants it to be.

Cecil Hurt is the sports editor for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach Hurt at 205-722-0225 or cecil.hurt@tuscaloosanews.com.


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