The NCAA said 201 athletes in 16 sports obtained "impermissible benefits" by using their scholarships to obtain free textbooks for other students. Alabama identified 22 athletes, including seven football players, as "intentional wrongdoers" who knew they were receiving improper benefits.
As a result, the NCAA ruled the football team must vacate any wins in which any of those seven players took part during 2005-2007. Alabama did not say how many victories would be affected.
Neither the football team nor any other sport lost postseason eligibility or scholarships.
"The penalty itself is not one that's directed at the coach," said Paul Dee, who chairs the committee on infractions and is a former University of Miami athletic director. "It's one that involves the team. It's one that involves the players and we believe it's the appropriate penalty under these circumstance under a going-backward rather than a going-forward basis."
The other 15 "wrongdoers" were members of the men's tennis, and men's and women's track and field programs. They acquired textbooks and materials of value greater than $100 for friends and other student-athletes. The four biggest offenders in dollar value were the seven football players, who received from $2,714 to $3,947 in improper benefits.
The other sports hit with probation were softball, baseball, gymnastics, women's basketball, soccer, volleyball and both the men's and women's teams in basketball, golf, swimming, tennis and track and field.
The university was ordered to pay a $43,900 fine.
Alabama is a repeat violator because the program was placed on five years' probation in February 2002, when it was also under the five-year window for basketball violations.
The sanctions come at a time when Alabama fans were celebrating the program's return to national prominence. Coach Nick Saban led the Tide to a 12-0 regular-season record and a No. 1 ranking last season, before the team lost to Florida in the Southeastern Conference title game and to Utah in the Sugar Bowl.
The university uncovered the violations after an Alabama Supply Store employee realized that an athlete had more than $1,600 in charges for the fall semester of 2007 and alerted university officials. Athletes get free textbooks with their scholarship, but some were accused of getting additional textbooks for other students.
The NCAA said the athletes weren't restricted by purchase limits or required to show photo identification.
Alabama has changed some of its procedures, including requiring compliance officials to be present when student-athletes pick up their books.
Saban, who replaced Mike Shula after the 2006 season, suspended five players - Antoine Caldwell, Glen Coffee, Marquis Johnson, Chris Rogers and Marlon Davis - for four games when the university uncovered the violations in 2007. The Tide was 5-2 at that point, and its only wins in the next six games came against Tennessee and Colorado in the Independence Bowl.
The university has said none of the textbooks or materials were used for profit or to get items not related to academics, and that the athletes involved who still have eligibility remaining have had to pay restitution.
"Although the committee commends the institution for self-discovering, investigating and reporting the textbook violations, it remains troubled, nonetheless, by the scope of the violations in this instance and by the institution's recent history of infractions cases," the NCAA said.
Forcing Alabama to vacate the wins instead of forfeiting means the opponents who lost those games won't be allowed to change their own records to reflect a victory.
The NCAA said some 125 athletes received benefits totaling less than $100 each.
The university was cited for not adequately monitoring the process or having a system for detecting the violations on a timely basis.
The university could not produce records before the 2005 fall semester, so it's unclear if similar violations occurred earlier. Dee described that omission as "unfortunate, but it's not critical."
He praised Alabama's handling of the matter once the wrongdoing was uncovered.
"I think that the University of Alabama did a terrific job," he said. "I think that the University of Alabama in this particular case had a problem that was just magnified by the number of athletes that were involved and the system that they had in place had what I might consider a gap in it. And the student-athletes took advantage of it."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.