Sixteen athletic teams at Alabama have been penalized for their involvement in improperly obtaining free textbooks for other students, with the football team ordered to vacate wins between the 2005 and 2007 seasons, the NCAA committee on infractions announced Thursday.
Alabama will be forced to vacate 21 football victories that came under the watch of former coach Mike Shula and current coach Nick Saban, the university said in a release.
The football program, which will not lose future scholarships, and the other 15 teams have been put on three years' probation -- the third probation penalty for university athletics in the past decade. Alabama also was ordered to pay a $43,900 fine.
It wasn't immediately clear if Alabama would appeal the probation, which would last until June 2012.
"First of all, I think the University of Alabama, Dr. [Robert] Witt [president], and Mal Moore [athletic director] did a great job of demonstrating institutional integrity in the way they handled this internally," Saban told the Birmingham News on Thursday before the NCAA's announcement. "I'm really happy for the players we have in the program that this won't affect their future, nor will it affect the players we're recruiting. We're always happy to be moving on, and we're looking forward to the future."
Former Miami athletic director Paul Dee, chairman of the committee on infractions, said 201 student-athletes improperly obtained textbooks from the school's bookstore. Dee said four football players were the worst offenders, obtaining books worth between $2,700 and $3,950. Dee said the athletes improperly obtained textbooks worth approximately $40,000. Athletes get free textbooks with their scholarships, but some were accused of getting additional textbooks for other students.
The NCAA identified seven Alabama football players who intentionally obtained textbooks improperly, Dee said. The NCAA asked Alabama officials to identify the games in which the ineligible players competed during the 2005-07 seasons for the purpose of vacating those victories. Alabama did so and came up with the 21-win number (see inline).
In addition to football, the programs receiving penalties are men's and women's basketball, softball, baseball, women's gymnastics, men's and women's golf, men's and women's swimming, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's track and field, women's soccer and women's volleyball.
"Although the committee commends the institution for self-discovering, investigating and reporting the textbook violations, it remains troubled, nonetheless, by the scope of the violations in this instance and by the institution's recent history of infractions cases," the NCAA said.
In men's tennis and men's and women's track, the individual records of 15 athletes identified as "intentional wrongdoers" will be vacated and team point totals from regular-season, postseason and NCAA championship contests will be reconfigured, the NCAA said.
The NCAA said some 125 student-athletes received benefits totaling less than $100 each.
The NCAA said the violations involving football players began at the start of the 2005 season; the university reported the violations after uncovering them during the '07 football season, when starting linemen Antoine Caldwell and Marlon Davis, running back Glen Coffee, and defensive backs Chris Rogers and Marquis Johnson were suspended for four games.
Under NCAA rules, the players would be ruled ineligible from when they first received the "extra benefits" and would have been ineligible until they were suspended and reinstated.
Alabama appeared before the NCAA committee on infractions on Feb. 20 to answer allegations of potentially major violations involving the improper disbursement of textbooks and "failure to adequately monitor" the textbook distribution process for student-athletes.
The violations occurred during the 2005-06 school year and into the fall of 2007. That left the university subject to potentially stiffer penalties as a repeat violator because the football program was placed on probation on Feb. 1, 2002.
The new case also reopens the five-year repeat violator window.
Saban replaced Shula as coach after the 2006 football season and suspended Caldwell, Coffee, Johnson, Rogers and Davis when the university uncovered the violations. The Tide were 5-2 at that point in the 2007 season, and their only wins in the next six games came against Tennessee, and in the Independence Bowl against Colorado.
The sanctions come at a time when Alabama fans were celebrating the program's return to national prominence. Saban led the Tide to a 12-0 regular-season record and a No. 1 ranking last season, before the team lost to Florida in the Southeastern Conference championship game and to Utah in the Sugar Bowl.
The university uncovered the violations after an Alabama Supply Store employee realized that an athlete had more than $1,600 in charges for the fall semester of 2007 and alerted university officials. Alabama has changed some of its procedures, including requiring compliance officials to be present when student-athletes pick up their books.
The university has said none of the textbooks or materials was used for profit or to get items not related to academics, and that the athletes involved who still have eligibility remaining have had to pay restitution.
Information from ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach and The Associated Press was used in this report.