MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus has been declared ineligible for two games for accepting nearly $2,000 in improper benefits during two trips to Miami.
An NCAA ruling Thursday also ordered Dareus, defensive MVP of the national championship game, to pay $1,787 dollars to a charity of his choice before regaining eligibility. The top-ranked Crimson Tide opens Saturday night against San Jose State and then hosts No. 19 Penn State. Alabama will already be without Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram (knee injury) for at least the opener.
Dareus was ruled ineligible for receiving preferential treatment and agent benefits, including airfare, lodging, meals and transportation during the Miami trips.
Coach Nick Saban said on his radio show in Tuscaloosa that Alabama will appeal the NCAA's penalty and try to get the penalty cut to one game.
"It is important to note that Marcell never intentionally violated any NCAA rules and did not knowingly receive any benefits from an agent," Mike Ward, Alabama's associate athletic director for compliance, said in a statement. "Marcell lived up to the letter and spirit of the NCAA cooperative principle and the NCAA described him as 'one of the most truthful student-athletes we have ever interviewed.' "
The NCAA cited "mitigating circumstances" in reducing the penalty from as many as four games.
The NCAA has also been looking into possible agent-related violations at Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. At North Carolina, the probe initially focused on whether two players received improper benefits from agents but expanded into possible academic violations that could sideline numerous players for this weekend's opener against LSU.
North Carolina suspended defensive tackle Marvin Austin on Wednesday for violating team rules.
Tide coach Nick Saban has led a movement to find ways to punish shady agents, in talks including the NFL and NFL Players Assocation along with the NCAA.
"We respect the decision but we are at the same time disappointed in the suspension," Saban said in a statement. "We'll continue to support Marcell as we move forward. Hopefully Marcell and all involved have learned a valuable lesson from this and like I've said before, we will continue to work on establishing stronger legislation in terms of agent and financial advisor guidelines."
Now, he's also working on filling the void left by Dareus. Sophomore Undra Billingsley, who saw some time at tight end last season, is listed as Dareus' backup, followed by redshirt freshman Darrington Sentimore.
Sophomore Damion Square is the backup to Luther Davis on the other side and is the only one of the group that has played for the Tide on defense.
Dareus, considered a potential first-round NFL draft pick, was a force in Alabama's defense last season despite starting only three games. He had 6½ sacks and made some of the biggest plays of the game against Texas with the national title at stake.
He knocked quarterback Colt McCoy out of the game with a shoulder injury, and Dareus also intercepted a shovel pass late in the second quarter and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown.