Florida State's lengthy and costly fight with the NCAA to preserve wins for football coach Bobby Bowden as well as for the nine other sports involved in an academic misconduct scandal has ended with a loss.
The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee on Tuesday ruled against the school's appeal, upholding a penalty that will strip the school of wins in 10 sports. The appeals committee took the Committee on Infractions to task for failing to specify how the school's actions factored into the meting out of penalties but didn't believe the oversight should result in changing the penalties.
"The cooperative efforts of the university clearly did not outweigh the aggravating factors present in this case — the nature, number, scope and seriousness of the violations," the report stated, a reference to the 61 athletes and three former employees of the Athletics Academic Support Services office implicated in the fraud. "Accordingly, we do not find the vacation of records penalty was excessive such that it constituted an abuse of discretion in this case."
The five-member committee's finding is the end of the appeals process and has left FSU officials disappointed.
Outgoing president T.K. Wetherell had a war of words with the NCAA for months and the school has paid $201,000 to an outside consultant and nearly $81,000 more to a Tallahassee law firm to handle the appeal and an open records lawsuit. (Invoices haven't been received from both for much of the fall, records show.)
"We believed that our administration did everything it possibly could to ferret out any and all improprieties in this matter," athletic director Randy Spetman said in a statement. "We were confident that those efforts would have significant sway in the appeal, but they did not."
That means an asterisk of sorts is likely to appear next to the win total of 389 for Bowden. His teams won seven games each in 2006 and 2007 and those victories could be at stake.
Bowden was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
Based on an analysis of records by the St. Petersburg Times, including the exam schedule for an online music course at the heart of the scandal, no more than five of the seven wins in 2006 should be at risk; the Seminoles won two games before an exam was offered in the fall of that semester. Other records indicate athletes didn't receive improper help on the exams until after the first one, and by then FSU had won a third game. All seven wins from the 2007 season figure to be vacated.
The school has not yet reviewed which contests ineligible athletes participated in, Spetman said.
"It is a detailed process," he said. "We didn't believe it was a process we should go through unless the decision made it necessary."
Aside from regular-season wins, FSU stands to vacate the 2007 men's outdoor track and field national championship and possibly other postseason appearances for other sports.
The school has 90 days to file its report with the NCAA's statistics department.
Meanwhile, the appeals committee also upheld the findings and the penalties against Brenda Monk, the school's former learning specialist who along with academic adviser Hillard Goldsmith III and a student tutor were cited for wrongdoing.
"They were wrong and I think in the end that'll come out," said Brant Hargrove, Monk's attorney. "The facts will come out now that we're in the proper forum."
Monk has filed a defamation lawsuit against FSU and is seeking at least $600,000 in damages. A February hearing is set.
Brian Landman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3347.