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Lifting Of Bowl Ban Gives Alabama A Different Perspective

August 2, 1996

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) _ Gene Stallings insists Alabama’s unsettled probation situation didn’t cause a disappointing 1995 season. Some players, however, say it will be easier to aim high now that the issue is resolved.

``We didn’t know we weren’t going to be in a bowl until the end of last year,″ the Crimson Tide coach said Thursday at a preseason SEC coaches-media gathering. ``I don’t think the fact we were on probation caused us to lose any games.″

The probation is in effect for one more year and the Crimson Tide will forfeit some scholarships next recruiting season, but the one-season bowl ban is over.

In August 1995, the NCAA imposed sanctions for violations involving former players Gene Jelks and Antonio Langham. The sanctions were the first in Alabama history.

The school appealed the penalties and the NCAA Appeals Committee considered the action as last season progressed. The committee didn’t decide to keep the bowl ban in place until Nov. 30, 12 days after Alabama’s final game.

An 8-3 record was Alabama’s worst since 1990 and the Tide missed the postseason for the first time since 1984.

While Stallings shrugged off the effects of the ongoing investigation, strong safety Kevin Jackson said it was always in the back of the players’ minds.

``There was no specific low point to last season. We just didn’t prepare well all year,″ Jackson said. ``It was hard to get excited because of probation. That got to us and we didn’t think about things the way we should have.″

The defense held up its end, finishing first in the conference in yards allowed. But the offense sank to 10th in the SEC as Stallings switched constantly between quarterbacks Brian Burgdorf and Freddie Kitchens.

In a postseason shakeup, Stallings replaced both of his coordinators. The more drastic of the moves was on offense, where Stallings replaced coordinator Homer Smith with receivers coach Woody McCorvey, presumably to get someone who runs an offense the head coach is comfortable with.

That means a more conservative style for whoever wins the quarterback position in a battle between Warren Foust and Kitchens, who is battling weight problems.

In a poll of 15 SEC beat writers, Alabama was a narrow choice over Louisiana State to win the SEC West.

Stallings said if Alabama improves and returns to a bowl it will be because the players got better, not because the coaches changed.

``Sometimes I think people just think you can present your scheme and they can present their scheme and you’ll put them together and see who wins,″ Stallings said. ``That’s not how it works.″

But still, he said: ``We won’t do anything offensively or defensively that I’m not familiar with.″

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