At the University of Alabama, where Nick Saban’s vaunted football teams have won three of the last four national championships, all of the once-gleeful faces are still awash in an ugly shade of crimson after four of the team’s players were arrested early last week. Three were charged with robbery and assault after allegedly mugging two fellow students while the fourth was arrested after he used a credit card that had been stolen from one of the victims.
The ringleader, or the “hitman” if you prefer, was one of the brightest rising football stars in the country, a five-star defensive back out of Panama City’s Arnold High School named Eddie Williams. The night before the separate attacks, Williams had been arrested for carrying a pistol without a permit following a ruckus at a convenience store.
And, to think, it has now just been a little over a month since Alabama whipped Notre Dame for the university’s 15th national football championship.
Both victims – also students at the university -- were brutally beaten and both were left unconscious in the early hours of Monday, Feb. 11, but – according to the police reports – reserve linebackers D.J. Pettway and Tyler Hayes took part in the first attack but then only stood and watched as Williams beat the second victim by himself. Running back Brent Calloway, who was previously arrested for marijuana possession in October 2011, was booked last week for the fraudulent use of a credit card.
All four players were immediately put on “indefinite suspension” by Coach Saban and the three charged with robbery have actually been banned from the Tuscaloosa campus pending judicial review by the university later this week. The official line out of Tuscaloosa is "the investigation is pending."
But now it has been learned that lawyers for the three have asked the Tuscaloosa County District court for “youthful offender” status, which would cap the maximum sentence and seal the proceedings from the public and the media. The attorneys claim their clients have never been in trouble before.
The Crimson Tide Nation, watching in embarrassed silence up until now, is enraged at the prospect of such a legal maneuver – after all, three athletes attacked two fellow students in a bad way, sending one to the hospital with a concussion and in need of stitches. Neither victim has made any public comment but the state’s newspaper columnists, the talk shows and an angry public is putting heavy pressure on the athletic department and the university to expel the miscreants immediately.
As one fan, Dino Rogers, fumed, "Having consciously broken the trust of the (university's) student and athlete codes these young men should not be granted youthful offender status but held to the most stringent bounds of the criminal code. They had opportunities sadly lacking most young men in this state and what did they do? They want to act like thugs? Treat them as such."
Another, Glen Hackney, was also indignant. "What judge, in their right mind, would grant these guys youthful offender? These kids have already received preferential treatment by not being charged with first degree robbery, if not attempted murder, given how bad the victims' injuries were; their crimes certainly fit the standard. I don't think there are many Auburn fans who thought these guys would spend a day in jail as soon as Saban didn't kick them off the team. I predicted it from day one, they will get off with community service ... "
One prominent Auburn fan -- basketball's outspoken Charles Barkley -- couldn't resist taking a dig at Alabama during his "Inside the NBA" television show on Thursday night. Barkley appeared with his head bandaged and when asked about it, he replied, “Being the Auburn guy that I am, I wanted to be first class. I went down to the University of Alabama to congratulate the Crimson Tide on winning a BCS Championship and I got mugged. I got mugged in Tuscaloosa, Ernie, and my credit cards are missing.”
The better truth is that In Tuscaloosa, those with long crimson faces, aren't laughing. You have to admit it; this isn't like Calloway's first arrest, when he was caught with marijuana in his sock and used the "youthful offender" moniker back then to hide from the media and work his way back onto the football team.
No, this is the physical assault on another student -- not once but in two separate attacks on the same night. And when you throw in Williams' pistol violation from the night before, the latest cut-glass trophy loses quite a bit of its shine. If it helps any, insiders say that Saban has placed nine players on indefinite suspension in the six years he's been head coach at Alabama and not a one has ever worn an Alabama uniform again.
Reuben Foster is considered to be one of Alabama's most highly-prized football recruits but when a classmate snapped this picture of him sleeping during a high school class, the picture has gone viral on the Internet and is being widely circulated across the south.