Instead, the hyper-bureaucratic organization that oversees college sports wielded a little, though not much, mercy along with its hefty stick. So, yes, be thankful.
Granted, the NCAA punished Alabama for its regrettable and embarrassing textbook scandal. Call it punishment deserved. Of all things, the university had to hope for NCAA mercy after discovering that athletes on numerous Crimson Tide teams had benefited from the misuse of free textbooks and other bookstore items.
It wasn't rogue boosters or cheating coaches or academically ineligible players who did Alabama wrong. It was textbooks and school supplies. For that, 16 Tide teams are now on probation, and the NCAA considers Alabama a "repeat violator" because it was in hot water earlier this decade.
Alabama's transgressions, deemed significant by the NCAA, left a scar on the school's reputation. The university's record books have been altered, past victories replaced by forfeits.
But because Alabama's punishment includes no football scholarship losses or bowl bans — nothing that will cripple this fall's squad — some diehard Tide fans may breathe a sigh of relief if they care more about winning games than they do about protecting the university's good name.
Such relief isn't being felt in Jacksonville, where the Gamecocks had pined for a taste of NCAA mercy regarding their appeal of a one-year football playoff ban. Earlier this year, the NCAA banned JSU because of the football team's historic record in the Academic Progress Rate, a four-year rolling score based on several criteria. JSU, citing recent improvements in the team's academics and the athletic department's academic improvement plan, vigorously appealed the ruling.
Unlike Tuscaloosa, no mercy was shown in Jacksonville. The Gamecocks will have a football season, but they'll have no opportunity for conference titles or playoff berths. In this case, call it punishment deserved, as well.
The Tuscaloosa and Jacksonville cases are dissimilar, with wholly different characteristics. There's no reason to make light of broken rules, and Alabama's plight as a repeat violator is particularly troubling and unacceptable. That so many athletes on so many teams were a part of Alabama's investigation is an appalling revelation.
Though Tide fans and alumni may be disappointed over the developments in Tuscaloosa, JSU faithful should find it wholly distasteful that the academic performance of the Gamecocks' football team was allowed to deteriorate to the point that the NCAA banned it from the playoffs.
It's good to hear that the Gamecocks' academic progress has improved, and that the university has an improvement plan in place for its athletes. Obviously, an upgrade was needed.
But the hit on the university's reputation is severe. JSU is one of only a few schools this year to have a team banned because of a historically poor academic performance score. There's no way to spin that headline. It sounds, and reads, awful.