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Daniel Ruth

Remove helmets, don dunce caps

Just what should we call this dunce cap of "student" athletes? Toads Scholars?

Because 61 Florida State University jocks, who have suggested by their actions they must be dumber than a sack of banjos, decided to cheat on what amounted to Early Basket-Weaving, they have now held up their school as an institution of higher grifting.

In recent days the NCAA has imposed some properly draconian sanctions on the FSU athletic program following disclosures that the 61 dolts across a multitude of sports — football, men's and woman's basketball, baseball, softball, track, swimming and golf — cheated on various exams, most notably a course titled Music in World Cultures.

Barring a successful appeal of the NCAA's punishment, which also includes probation, it's probable the FSU Fighting Cribbers will have to vacate at least all seven wins from the 2007 gridiron season, which means head coach Bobby Bowden, the Sgt. Schultz of Tallahassee, will now have to remain on the sidelines until he is 127 years old in order to surpass his longtime nemesis, Penn State's Joe Paterno, for career wins.

At least Bowden can take some cold comfort in the knowledge that his players hold the collegiate record for the most number of bail bondsmen on speed dial.

They had to finagle a course in Music in World Cultures? Good grief. Wouldn't this be like trying to fudge the tests for Introduction to Having a Pulse?

Here is the FSU official course description: "This course provides an introductory survey of traditions and transformations of music in global perspective, exploring music both as a phenomenon of sound and a phenomenon of culture. The focus of the course is not traditional music per se, but is rather musics of tradition, with tradition understood as a process of transformation whose most remarkable feature is the continuity it nurtures and sustains. Within this framework, we will explore everything from folk and classical genres to contemporary styles of world beat, jazz, popular and experimental musics."

Or in more nonacademic language, everybody would listen to music, discuss its cultural traditions and take a few tests. It wasn't as if these sports "heroes" were expected to take a class in chemical engineering taught in ancient Greek. This was "Duh 101."

Adding insult to insanity, these products of "Mr. Chips Meets Charles Ponzi" were aided and abetted in their classroom three-card monte scam by several employees from the school's dubiously named Athletics Academic Support Services office, which is otherwise known as If You Barely Know You're Alive But Can Do A 4.5 40-Yard Dash, We're Here To Help.

According to the NCAA investigation, athletic department employees provided answers to quizzes (What was Frank Sinatra's first name, perhaps?) as well as writing papers for the "students."

Indeed, one of the department culprits was referred to as a "rogue" tutor by FSU president T.K. Wetherell, who reacted in horror that something might be amiss with the university's sports program much the same way Al Capone would have been scandalized by the very notion of bathtub gin.

Wetherell's phony Anne of Avonlea fretting notwithstanding, both he and the eternally posing-for-holy-pictures Bowden have overseen a football program for years that has been more scruples-challenged than an Afghan warlord.

There's been an awful lot of hand-wringing about what impact the transgressions of the FSU Fighting Flimflammers will have on the school's won-loss records and the final tally of victories Bowden will accrue in his chase of Paterno. In two words — Who cares?

Are these victories really all that important, especially if they were achieved using players with whom you wouldn't leave your bar change unattended if you found yourself sitting next to them in a saloon?

And if Bobby Bowden was such an inspirational figure, why would his players be so blithely willing to embarrass him, their school, their team, themselves?

In the end, Bowden and his besmirched legacy are irrelevant. FSU can prop up an embalmed Bowden on the sidelines for the next 25 years and it will still do nothing to dilute the sad fact that despite his winning percentage, when it came to character many of his players were wide, wide, wide right.

If anyone has a legitimate beef to feel betrayed, it is FSU safety standout Myron Rolle, who did everything right — went to class, hit the books, took the tests (on his own) and graduated with dignity as a Rhodes Scholar to study medical anthropology, only to be associated with an athletic program tainted by — cheaters.

Rolle could certainly have been excused if after every game he had spent extra time in the showers.

Remove helmets, don dunce caps 03/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 12, 2009 6:46pm]

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