Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Florida State-NCAA transcript released
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- NCAA documents released Wednesday as the result of a news media lawsuit explain the thinking behind a proposal to strip Florida State coaches and athletes of victories for academic cheating -- even those not implicated.
The release also pierces the NCAA's veil of secrecy in disciplinary cases for the first time due to court rulings saying certain documents involving state schools are public records.
Football coach Bobby Bowden is among those who stand to lose wins -- 14 in his case. That would further diminish his already dwindling chances of overtaking Penn State's Joe Paterno, who leads Bowden by four victories as major college football's winningest coach.
Most of the 695-page transcript of an Oct. 18, 2008 hearing by the NCAA's Committee on Infractions is a rehash of information previously made public by the university.
It does, though, show the idea of vacating wins is based on the belief an athlete is ineligible from the time he or she committed academic fraud, even though it may not have been discovered until some time later.
That drew an objection from ACC associate commissioner Shane Lyons. He joined Florida State officials for the hearing at a hotel in Indianapolis, where the NCAA is based.
"This has never been discussed with the [NCAA] membership," Lyons said. "I don't think the membership has been applying it that way."
"I'm pretty sure the committee has," replied committee member Josephine Potuto, a constitutional law professor at Nebraska.
Florida State, which itself reported the violations to the NCAA, has accepted self-imposed penalties, including loss of scholarships and player suspensions. The school is appealing only the plan to take victories away from coaches and more than 500 athletes in 10 sports.
The university and NCAA staffers also previously agreed 61 athletes implicated in the cheating, mostly on exams for an online music course, would be suspended for 30 percent of a season under an agreement between the university and NCAA staffers. That included about 25 football players who served their suspensions in 2007 and 2008.
Athletes' names, though, were removed from transcripts and other documents released earlier by the university.
The infractions committee has no control over student eligibility, but vacating victories is a way it can penalize Florida State for using ineligible athletes even though school officials were unaware they had cheated under after the fact, Potuto said.
Wetherell also argued no coaches, boosters or donors were involved but blamed academics who failed to follow university policy.
The athletes could have faced complete ineligibility, but received a reduced penalty because Florida State accepted most of the blame for what happened due to failures by faculty members and academic officials and tutors in the athletic department.
As the hearing ended, committee chairman Dennis Thomas, commissioner of the Mid-East Athletic Conference, warned participants "to refrain from revealing what was discussed ... especially with the media, until the public release of the infractions report."
That's now a moot issue, but the NCAA is appealing to the Florida Supreme Court to keep such documents secret in the future.
It filed a notice of appeal shortly before Florida State released the transcript to comply with a final decision Tuesday by the 1st District Court of Appeal.
The appellate court upheld a trial judge's earlier ruling the transcript and another document Florida State previously released are public records under the state's open-government "sunshine" laws. The decision came in a lawsuit filed by The Associated Press and other media organizations.
Other details in the transcript:
-- Former academic adviser Brenda Monk, who resigned after being implicated, said one athlete she was accused of helping cheat had an IQ of 60 and couldn't read the test questions.
-- Florida State president T.K. Wetherell told the committee the university was "embarrassed," but pointed out the school reported the violations itself and has cooperated with the NCAA. He also argued no coaches, boosters or donors were involved but blamed academics who failed to follow university policy.
-- Although several staffers were fired or resigned after the scandal broke, Wetherell said that doesn't include former athletic director Dave Hart. Wetherell said he told Hart several months before that his contract wouldn't be renewed, but did not make that public at Hart's request.
-- Florida State tracks how many athletes sign up for classes, which should have tipped officials to a dramatic increase in the music course, but that information never got passed up the chain of command.
Former academic adviser Brenda Monk, who resigned after being implicated, said one athlete she was accused of helping cheat had an IQ of 60 and couldn't read the test questions.