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Florida State Gets Probation, Other Penalties for Academic Scandal

Mar 6, 2009 – 4:48 PM
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Brian Grummell

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The NCAA has dropped major penalties on Florida State's athletics program Friday, tagging the Seminoles with four years of probation and other penalties in response to an academic scandal tinged with "major violations" committed between 2006 and 2007.

Florida State has a right to appeal, but the notable punishments include: public reprimand and censure, scholarship limits imposed for football and several other sports, all records (wins, stats) vacated for all games ineligible athletes participated in and requirement of an annual compliance report.

It's unclear yet how many victories Florida State's football program will lose, but count on Penn State's Joe Paterno (383 victories) now sliding comfortably ahead of Bobby Bowden (382) in college football's all-time victory battle.

The genesis of Florida State's problems was the online examination process for a music class not being "administered in a structured environment." Sixty-one athletes from the football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's swimming, men's and women's track and field, baseball, softball and men's golf teams participated.

Notably, Florida State had removed over 30 players from its 2007 Music City Bowl roster and suspended many more for several games to start the 2008 season in response to its investigation of the scandal.

The Orlando Sentinel's Chopping Block blog is doing an excellent job tracking this, reporting some interesting details from the NCAA's teleconference. The award for misplaced priorities goes to an unknown reporter who asked whether consideration was given to Bobby Bowden's all-time wins mark before sanctions were made. The NCAA -- in the form of spokesman Dennis Thomas, vice chair of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions, and another spokeswoman -- did clarify that Florida State would 'vacate' its wins from football and other sports, meaning that they would lose their wins and records but opponents' records would go unchanged.

In a somewhat similar case a few years ago, Oklahoma screamed bloody murder after penalties were handed down and the NCAA lightened the burden after further evaluation. Perhaps Florida State will have similar success but, as noted by the Chopping Block, academic fraud is among the most severe of crimes in the NCAA's eyes, more severe than even some of the more sensationalized booster and/or improper benefit type cases -- ahem, Reggie Bush.

I'll again reference The Chopping Block which notes that we cannot immediately know how many victories Florida State's football program will vacate because "it's FSU's job to determine whether ineligible students participated in an intercollegiate event. Anytime ineligible students participated in an intercollegiate event, the school must vacate wins from those games. Then, the school must report those findings to the NCAA."

This is interesting because, in a way, the NCAA has now cleared the deck with the Oklahoma and Florida State cases now mostly handled, freeing up more investigative energy for whatever eventually comes USC's way in response to the fairly complicated situation involving Bush.

Notable reaction: Tomahawk Nation claims "Florida State beat the NCAA. Bobby Bowden lost. The only people angry about this are the Bowden crowd and the Track Team." They also report Florida State will have 83 football scholarships (grants-in-aide in NCAA parlance) in 2008-2009, 82 in 2009-2010, and 84 in 2010-2011 instead of the customary 85. That's really, really light for a major program.

Oh, and for the curious, barring any changes after appeal here's the language for the NCAA's official entry for Florida State in its publicly available infractions database:
Institution: Florida State University
Date: 06-MAR-09

Violation Summary: Violations of NCAA legislation involving three former University Athletics Academic Support Services staff members (including a former learning specialist) who gave improper assistance resulting in academic fraud to numerous student-athletes representing multiple sport programs. There were also associated violations relating to the provision of impermissible benefits and a failure to monitor by the institution.

Penalty Summary: Additional penalties imposed by the committee were as follows: public reprimand and censure; four years of probation (the institution had proposed a period of two years); additional limits in the number of grants-in-aid in football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's swimming, men's and women's track and field, baseball, softball and men's golf; vacation of all records in which the 61 student-athletes competed while ineligible during 2006 and 2007 in the sports of football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's swimming, men's and women's track and field, baseball, softball and men's golf; show-cause order for the former learning specialist for a period of four years; show-cause order for the former tutor for a period of three years; show-cause order for the former academic advisor for a period of five years; annual compliance reporting required.
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