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Phillip's blog: Troubled times

Even 20 years ago, no one could have imagined what we have come to in college football in our state and beyond.

Senior Editor Phillip Marshall

Anyone can be a blogger or even start a web site, declare himself a reporter and go in search of page views. The more outlandish the “reporting,” the more viewers come to look. Some of these guys know just enough about NCAA rules, how to search the Internet and how to get public records to be dangerous.

They search message boards, once dismissed as nothing more than fan chatter. Conspiracy theories abound on some of those boards, and sometimes they end up on those web sites or in those blogs and eventually make their way to more reputable news outlets.

It takes reading no more than a few paragraphs of most of those conspiracy theories to recognize that they couldn’t possibly be true. But they spread and grow like weeds anyway.

An oddsmaker can go on a radio show, claim to have a source at the NCAA, change his story to say he has a source who has a source in the NCAA, and create a national stir.

With that as a backdrop, it is my heart-felt opinion that we have come to a college football crisis in the state of Alabama. If it’s not someway, somehow brought under control, this might be remembered as the last great era of college football in a state where it means so much.

I’m not talking about fans who are passionate for their school or even passionate in their dislike for the opposing school. The word “hate” gets thrown around, but most of the time it’s not really hate. You saw that with the unified response to the tragic tornadoes that hit our state.

I’m not talking about using words like Barners and Bammers. I don’t have any problem with a fan wearing a “I hate Auburn (or Alabama)” t-shirt. Those kinds of things are harmless and have always been part of the rivalry.

This crisis isn’t about any of those things. It’s about very real efforts to destroy the other side.

For months, there has been a widespread message board campaign to convince the world that Auburn’s national championship is tainted at best, temporary at worst. It certainly has been successful in convincing a lot of people who don’t know better. Now we are starting to see signs of retaliation from the Auburn side. No one cares who gets hurt, as long as he wears the colors of the other team.

In this day of instant information, there are lots of eyes watching every college football program. And behind some of those eyes are people who rejoice in anything bad that happens to the other side or anyone associated with the other side. Combine them with amateur reporters who have suddenly gained notoriety, and you have a very bad mixture.

Word is that the NCAA has received an unprecedented number of emails, faxes, etc., from Alabama fans claiming Auburn is dirty. Like-minded Auburn fans aren’t going to take it lying down, so now they’re doing all they can to fight back.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Thursday that, if the fans would respect each other as much as the players and coaches, there wouldn’t be any problems. Alabama coach Nick Saban said similar things Friday. Was anyone listening?

Probably not.

What’s it going to take to turn down the volume? Is it going to take both programs going down in flames? If you don’t think that can happen, check out the old Southwest Conference. Is it going to someone being killed?

I don’t know those answers, but I know at a time when the focus should be on celebrating the last two national champions and last two Heisman Trophy winners residing in this state, the atmosphere is toxic and getting worse.

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