After Outkickthecoverage.com reported on the odd relationship between T-Town Menswear and Alabama football, the university provided word to OKTC and ESPN that it had sent a cease and desist letter to the store’s owner in December of 2010 and found nothing improper in the relationship between the store and its players. But as further investigation ensues the connections between the program, the store, and the store’s owner, Tom Albetar, are becoming deeper and more troubling. In fact, OKTC has discovered that Albetar was well known enough to Alabama officials to receive sideline passes to Alabama games in both 2009 and 2010.
In addition, after Alabama sent a cease and desist letter to Albetar the owner of the store continued his affiliation with the program, hosting a signing event with Alabama’s Greg McElroy, a graduating senior, on January 26, 2011 and with former defensive back Javier Arenas in March of 2011.
The McElroy signing was particularly interesting because on January 26th, 2011, over a month after the cease and desist letter to T-Town Menswear demanding the removal of signed jerseys in the window, the store still had signed jerseys from current Alabama players in the display windows. Only this time one jersey had been added — presumptive starting quarterback for 2011, A.J. McCarron — alongside linebacker Nico Johnson’s. See for yourself in this photo.
They’re the second and third jerseys above the very table where McElroy signed autographs for hundreds of Alabama fans.
Based on the time stamp on the photos, we know that Nico Johnson’s jersey was displayed in October, November, and January (potentially December as well). At what point does that constitute permission and hence an NCAA violation that would render him retroactively ineligible, leading to the forfeiture of all games he appeared in? That’s for the NCAA to decide.
In the meantime, if Alabama was truly worried about Albetar in December of 2010 would they have allowed his continued affiliation with the program? What’s more, did the Crimson Tide send him another cease and desist letter demanding the removal of A.J. McCarron and Nico Johnson’s jerseys in late January?
Tonight Alabama released a cease and desist letter that it sent to Tom Albetar in December of 2010. That letter acknowledges that Alabama knew Albetar was selling items autographed by current players, but says that those players were not aware of the items resale.
All this comes with an even more troubling question for Alabama: does Tom Albetar have booster status as a result of his connection to the program?
OKTC requested comment about Albetar’s relationship with the university on Saturday. Twenty-four hours later we have heard no official response on Albetar’s status. Instead Alabama issued this response to OKTC: “Months ago, our Compliance Department discussed the issue with the proprietor of T-Town Menswear, as well as our student-athletes. Based on the information gathered, there has not been a trading of memorabilia for merchandise or discounts in that store. Like any business in Tuscaloosa, our Compliance Department continues to monitor the situation and maintain a dialog with all parties involved.”
Perhaps Alabama has not yet responded on Albetar because the university is seeking a compliance opinion on whether or not Albetar qualifies as a booster of the program.
The NCAA defines a representative of athletic interest or booster as follows:
13.02.14 Representative of Athletics Interests.
A “representative of the institution’s athletics interests” is an individual, independent agency, corporate entity (e.g., apparel or equipment manufacturer) or other organization who is known (or who should have been known) by a member of the institution’s executive or athletics administration to:
(a) Have participated in or to be a member of an agency or organization promoting the institution’s intercollegiate
(b) Have made financial contributions to the athletics department or to an athletics booster organization of that institution;
(c) Be assisting or to have been requested (by the athletics department staff) to assist in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes;
(d) Be assisting or to have assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families; or
(e) Have been involved otherwise in promoting the institution’s athletics program.
Keep in mind that Albetar has been advertising his business by saying: “We dress Alabama football.” If true in any respect then he would fit the NCAA definition of a booster, which means Alabama’s failure to keep tabs on him is incredibly troubling.
Of course Alabama will probably attempt to argue that the university didn’t know him well enough to keep up with him.
Except…Albetar was well known enough to the Alabama program to receive at least one sideline pass in 2009. Here are photos of him on the sideline during that season at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
A year later, during 2010, the year when Alabama reportedly sent him a cease and desist letter for improperly displaying the signed jerseys of five current Crimson Tide players, Albetar was still well known enough and considered unthreatening enough to the program to receive at least one other sideline pass and, among other things, pose alongside Terry Saban, wife of Nick Saban.
As if that wasn’t enough, Julio Jones and Mark Ingram were chummy enough with Albetar to hang out in the store’s office in 2010. Julio even used the computer.
I mean, raise your hand if you haven’t been to a store in the mall, gone into the private office, and checked your email.
Mark Ingram looks pretty comfortable too.
As you can see from hundreds of photographs there, Albetar’s relationship with Alabama football players is deep, long-lasting, and potentially very troubling indeed. Especially if he’s classified as a booster of the program, which he very well may be.
Buckle in and check back frequently on the site this week, there’s more coming and this story is just getting started ladies and gents.
And if you need to catch up on this building story here are OKTC’s three consecutive breaking stories that have brought us to this point: