Alabama facing different kind of spotlight

Nobody’s immune, not even Alabama.

As good as the Crimson Tide have been on the field over the past four years, they’ve been just as good at staying out of trouble off the field.

Make of that what you will. Cynics will charge Nick Saban has a direct line to every police chief within 200 miles of Tuscaloosa, and the Crimson Tide are pretty slick at handling issues internally and keeping them internal.

Defenders of the program insist that Saban simply doesn’t put up with any nonsense and that his players know the consequences of embarrassing the program.

Regardless of which of those versions is closer to the truth, Alabama has a mess on its hands following Monday’s arrest of four players.

Freshman linebacker Tyler Hayes, redshirt freshman defensive end D.J. Pettway and freshman safety Eddie Williams were each charged with two counts of second-degree robbery, and freshman running back Brent Calloway was charged with one count of fraudulently using a credit card.

Williams was also charged with fraudulent use of a credit card and was arrested on Sunday in a separate incident for carrying a pistol without a license.

Saban announced Tuesday all four players had been indefinitely suspended while Alabama officials continued to gather information and talk to the appropriate people.

“The university and football program have strict guidelines regarding issues of this magnitude. This behavior is unacceptable for any student-athlete at the University of Alabama and not representative of our football program,” Saban said in a statement.

The translation: If the arrest warrants prove to be accurate -- and they certainly don’t paint a pretty picture -- then it’s highly questionable that any of the four will return to Alabama.

For one, the Crimson Tide are recruiting at such a high level that Saban can afford to send talented players packing, although Pettway is the only one of the four who’s been a major contributor to this point.

More importantly, though, the nature of what they’re accused of is the kind of thing no coach wants in his program.

If you look around all of college football, you’re going to see issues with alcohol and marijuana. Countless college students (and not just athletes) make dumb decisions and get themselves into trouble from time to time with the “forbidden fruit.”

But when it rises to the level of robbery and physically attacking fellow students, which is alleged in the arrest warrants, then it becomes a safety issue on campus.

As athletic director Mal Moore pointed out in his statement, those are disciplinary decisions that will be made in conjunction with the university. In other words, it’s also a student conduct matter.

It’s also a matter that no doubt has Saban seething.

He preaches accountability and representing the football program and university with class. He believes deeply in the total development of his players and regularly brings in speakers from all walks of life to provide guidance.

Making sound decisions, both on and off the field, is one of the hallmarks of his program.

It’s right up there with not getting bogged down in the clutter.

And believe you me, in Saban’s world, this is clutter in its purest and ugliest form.