Observers watching how NCAA will handle Alabama

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As top-ranked Alabama pulls into town on Saturday night to play Kentucky, the status of suspended safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix remains up in the air.

Meanwhile, USA Today reports that many are watching to see how the NCAA handles the specifics of the Clinton-Dix suspension, especially given the friendship between NCAA president Mark Emmet and Alabama coach Nick Saban.

Clinton-Dix was suspended for allegedly receiving a $500 loan from an assistant strength coach, who has been placed on administrative leave.

Before that revelation, Yahoo Sports reported that offensive lineman D.J. Fluker accepted money and gits in 2012.

Emmert was chancellor at LSU when the Baton Rouge school hired Saban away from Michigan State.

“Chancellor Emmert is absolutely the best boss I’ve ever had,” Saban said at LSU in 2004, according to the story.

Could that present a conflict?

Alabama has two perceived friends in high places: Emmert and Alabama graduate Derrick Crawford, a director of enforcement for the NCAA. In the outside world, it’s akin to being accused of a crime and having the charges investigated at the police station where your uncle is the police chief and your friend is the top detective.

“That’s why (the NCAA) probably will handle this case very carefully — because of the perception,” said Michael Buckner, a private attorney in Miami who specializes in NCAA cases. “They’re probably going to err on the side of caution, so that nothing they do could be seen as being improper.”

ESPN’s Outside the Lines did a recent report about problems with the NCAA concerning “selective enforcement” where former employees said that certain schools were targeted while other schools were treated differently.

Meanwhile, Landon Collins started in place of Clinton-Dix for Bama’s 45-3 win over Georgia State last week. Geno Smith also saw time at the position. Collins previously was primarily a cornerback but was tutored personally by Saban before the Georgia State game. Collins and Smith would meet with the head coach for 45 minutes before practice to go over the fine points of the position.

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