The self-reported academic fraud case by Florida State in September seemed to be under control. FSU had reported the violation to the NCAA, and the two football players involved had been held out of games and suspended.
This revolved around a “learning specialist” and a tutor who “perpetrated academic dishonesty” in a scandal involving 23 athletes across various sports at FSU, an internal investigation found. In some cases, the employees, both of whom subsequently resigned, gave students answers to online exams and typed material for them.
Now comes word today that up to twenty-five football players will be suspended for the Music City Bowl. The suspensions are the result of further investigations which found that FSU players had initially lied in the investigation and have now come clean as a result of finding that they could lose their eligibility if they did not tell the truth. Federal privacy laws prohibit the school from releasing names.
Reports started filtering out last week that the NCAA was on campus in regards to the case, and that more players than initially reported were involved. Reports were that anywhere from twelve to 20 football players could be suspended.
This leads to a host of questions that T.K. Wetherell, Dave Hart, and Bobby Bowden should answer for alumni and fans.
Apparently, the initial investigation was not done thoroughly. Why not? It also leads to the ultimate question of institutional control—which is the one area where the NCAA will put the hammer down hard on schools that do not exercise this.
I understand that the tutoring program is a program that cuts across the athletic departments, and is not within the direct purview of Bobby Bowden or the football program. Unfortunately, the NCAA will not see it this way, nor will most fans or alumni.
It is interesting to me that the Director of Athletics Academic Support still has his job. How will the NCAA view this? Will they see a university and athletic department that did not take all the appropriate actions and did not exercise institutional control in the matter?
In addition, will FSU have to forfeit games in 2007 in which these now suspended players had played?
And yes, the responsibility starts at the top. Just as any university president, CEO, or even the President of the United States are held accountable for actions far below them, Wetherell, Hart in particular, and Bowden to a lesser degree must be held accountable also.
Of course, Dave Hart has left the building—and nothing further will be heard from him regarding this issue. And let's be candid. If this was left up to Bobby Bowden, he would have the players running stadium steps as punishment for cheating on tests.
And what about those involved in this academic fraud?
Hopefully the so-called "tutors" will never get another job in an academic setting. The players who chose to cheat and then lie have not only brought shame on themselves for their lack of ethics, but have caused the University enormous harm. This is why character is so important in the recruiting process.
Hopefully, FSU is doing a better job at asking coaches, principals, and others about a prospective recruit's character.
The punishment to FSU for the players stupid and unethical decisions will be meted out by the NCAA, who is not exactly FSU's best friend. FSU and the NCAA are not on the best of terms, given T.K. Wetherell's victory over the NCAA regarding the issue of the Seminole mascot.
As they say, the NCAA does not get mad: they just get even. Don't expect any leniency from them in regard to this case.
Here is what a NCAA spokesperson had to say. Kevin Lennon, the association’s vice president for membership services, said in a statement about the Florida State case that “the NCAA and its member institutions take seriously any allegation of academic misconduct,” and that “these types of violations are among the most serious that can be committed.”
Among the most serious. Meaning FSU may be in for some serious penalties.
One must also ask: why did FSU accept a bowl bid, knowing that a significant number of players would be suspended for the game? Why not decline the bowl invite instead of having the nation see the Seminoles brand in such an unfavorable light?
The other side of the coin is that the bowl game counts against the number of games for players who will be suspended. Also, FSU is hoping to schedule lesser opponents for the first few games of the 2008 season, which would be better given the fact that suspensions will have the Noles at a disadvantage.
So FSU fans and alumni will now have to endure its version of Chinese water torture as they await the decision by the NCAA. Florida State will continue to be the subject of jokes and harsh criticism from across the nation.
This one comes from late night talk show host Jay Leno: "Of course, the other students are stunned. No one had any idea that athletes at FSU had to take tests."
Or how about this comment on the ESPN message board: "Are you freaking kidding me with this? I'm so sick of our program looking like trash. Every school has criminals, cheaters...but can we just keep it together like the old days? Jimbo better have a plan to tighten up this ship."
Or this: "Spurrier was right! They don't call FSU Free Shoes University for nothing. Wait..that should be Free Cheating University!"
Not to be outdone by: "This program should be thrown under the bus. If they're too lazy to do a internet course, do you really think they have been attending class under Bowden for the last 30 years ????????"
FSU fans and alumni better have some thick skins, because this is only the beginning.
Whether it's right or wrong, this is yet another issue that tarnishes Bobby Bowden's legacy. Some will say that this is reflective of his lax punishment policy, which created an environment amongst athletes, who believed they would not be harshly disciplined. Running stadium steps is about as harsh as it gets under Bowden.
The other shoe has dropped, and we will all have to wait and see how hard the heels of the NCAA are to the face of Seminole Nation.