Florida court rules against NCAA

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A Florida appellate court again has rebuffed the NCAA's effort to prevent public disclosure of documents on academic cheating at Florida State.

The documents, with students' names blacked out, could be released as early as Wednesday, said Carol Jean LoCicero, an attorney for The Associated Press and other news media.

LoCicero's clients sued the NCAA, Florida State and the university's outside law firm under the state's open-records "sunshine" laws.

The 1st District Court of Appeal late Monday denied the college athletics organization's motions for a rehearing or certification of the case to the Florida Supreme Court as a question of great public importance.

The NCAA still could ask the state high court to review the case and block release of the documents until the justices make a decision. That will be difficult, though, because of strong trial and appellate court rulings that found the documents to be public records.

"Their options are certainly narrowing down to not much," LoCicero said.

An NCAA spokesman did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

The main document at issue is the transcript of an NCAA hearing held at its Indianapolis headquarters and attended by Florida State president T.K. Wetherell and athletic director Randy Spetman last October.

An NCAA committee then proposed taking wins away from coaches and athletes -- even those not implicated in the cheating. That's besides Florida State's self-imposed penalties, which included the loss of athletic scholarships and suspension of those who cheated on an online music history test.

Florida State is appealing the loss of victories. Football coach Bobby Bowden could lose 14 wins, and that would diminish his already dwindling chances of overtaking Penn State's Joe Paterno as major college football's winningest coach. Paterno has 388 victories; Bowden is four behind.

The NCAA tried to keep the documents secret by putting them on a read-only, secure Web site that could be accessed by Florida State's outside lawyers rather than sending them to the university on paper or through conventional electronic means such as e-mail.

The courts, though, have ruled such technological schemes cannot be used to circumvent the state's public records law.

The lawsuit also sought the university's response to the proposed penalty. The school, though, already has released the response after manually transcribing it from the read-only Web site.