- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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Alabama has disassociated from T-Town Menswear owner Tom Albetar for three years and the school is saying he didn't break any NCAA rules while in contact with Tide players.
A hand-delivered disassociation letter was taken to Albetar in March -- clearly showing the store owner the seriousness of the situation. In December, Alabama officials sent him a cease-and-desist letter to stop selling, distributing or promoting items signed by or depicting current players.
Here is an excerpt from Alabama's disassociation letter to Albetar:
The institution must remain cautious regarding any relationship you may have with its student-athletes beyond that of a store owner and customer. As the owner of a local business, the institution is reliant on you to heed all instruction provided by the institution and it compliance staff regarding adherence to NCAA rules.
It is important for you to understand the University is not making specific conclusions or specific allegations aquatint you at this time. Your conduct and interaction with student-athletes, as well as that of your employees, has been appropriately reviewed, and appears to be compliant with NCAA regulations. However, given the numerous items of memorabilia displayed in your store, including at times, some belonging to or signed by current student-athletes, you have potentially placed the University and it's student-athletes at risk. This risk includes exposing our student-athletes to potential NCAA investigators or sensationalized journalism based on assumptions that wrongdoing has taken place.
Alabama compliance director Mike Ward also released a statement Tuesday that said Albetar was in compliance with the rules and that an internal investigation didn't find any indication that athletes received any extra benefits.
"Our review of this matter was a part of our normal compliance program," Ward said. "We routinely look at all situations of potential concern. Based on our review of this matter, we concluded that Mr. Albetar was in compliance with NCAA regulations. It is not a violation for student-athletes to sign autographs and it is not a violation for a business to display photos, jerseys or other items depicting current student-athletes. We found no evidence that any student-athlete received any extra benefits.
"Due to the concerns expressed in our letter to Mr. Albetar dated March 31, 2011, we disassociated him from our program. As we always do in matters of this nature, we discussed this matter with the SEC office. Because we found no evidence of any NCAA violation, we did not self-report a violation."
Things got interesting with this story when pictures of running back Trent Richardson posing with Albetar and signing memorabilia popped up on the Internet last week. Each day, new pictures of different athletes surfaced, including former wide receiver Julio Jones wearing a suit jacket inside Albetar's store.
Still, there is nothing wrong with players posing for Facebook pictures or parading around a store.
So far, it appears that Alabama will be fine. College athletes sign helmets, jerseys and T-shirts all the time, but as long as players aren’t receiving extra benefits on the side for their penmanship or knew what they were signing would be sold or used as a promotional benefit for the store, what they did can't be considered a NCAA violation.
1dSam Khan Jr.
2dSam Khan Jr.