A disassociated Alabama booster says there's “nothing to worry about” over a report he has broken NCAA rules by selling memorabilia signed by top Crimson Tide players.
Tom Al-Betar told CBSSports.com on Thursday he obtains memorabilia from fans via the school's fan day and former players who visit his store after graduation.
“I have everything from the former players,” Al-Betar said.
Outkickthecoverage.com reported Al-Betar's new business, T-Town Gallery, is selling, among several items, autographed jerseys of current players T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper.
Photos from the Facebook page of Al-Betar's T-Town Menswear business in Tuscaloosa show several pictures of junior safety Vinnie Sunseri signing autographs in the store. The photos were posted Jan. 12. An ESPN report surfaced the same day that Sunseri was declaring for the NFL Draft. The page also includes pictures of senior quarterback A.J. McCarron with girlfriend Katherine Webb.
Al-Betar, who received a disassociation letter from Alabama in March 2011 after displaying extensive Alabama football memorabilia in his T-Town store and taking pictures with players, said in a brief interview that fans from Alabama's Fan Day ”come in with stuff.”
“They don't belong to no football players,” Al-Betar said. “They sign it over there and they will come here. Most every year they do the same thing.”
When asked whether the volume of pictures suggests eligible players were involved, he said, ‘Hell No!” and asked what pictures CBSSports.com was referencing. He was directed to the contents of the Outkickthecoverage.com post and the Facebook page.
“When people graduate they [sign],” Al-Betar said. “When they are in school nobody's in here.”
Al-Betar added, “This is ridiculous. There is nothing to worry about,” before wishing a good day and hanging up.
Alabama issued a statement from athletic director Bill Battle: “We are aware of the story produced today. As part of our ongoing compliance efforts, our compliance department looks into everything that warrants concern. That effort is diligent and all-encompassing, and requires constant communication and education regarding all potential issues.”
In 2011, Alabama ordered Al-Betar to “refrain from obtaining any items of memorabilia from our student-athletes while they are in your store.”
The numbers of items displayed in his store put student-athletes “at risk” with potential NCAA investigations or “sensationalized journalism,” according to Alabama's letter to Al-Betar.
College football memorabilia was a major storyline in August, when the NCAA investigated Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in light of an ESPN report he signed thousands of autographs for brokers. Manziel missed a half-game as a result.