TALLAHASSEE — Making his first public comments about the NCAA ruling that could cost him several victories from the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden declared Wednesday that the punishment was "too stiff."
"There are different degrees of doing something wrong," said Bowden, 79, who finished last season one victory behind Penn State's Joe Paterno (383-382) on the career wins list for major-college football. "You can go 5 miles over the speed limit. That's one thing. Or you can go 50 miles over the speed limit, and that's dangerous.
"It just seems like they're killing a flea with a hammer."
FSU turned itself in to the NCAA after a student-athlete reported widespread cheating in an online music class.
Because the case involved two staff members and a graduate assistant tutor, the NCAA Infractions Committee determined that the university should lose scholarships, serve four years' probation and vacate victories in 10 sports, including football.
President T.K. Wetherell announced Tuesday that the school would appeal the ruling, and Bowden said he's pleased. He also lightly chided the media for focusing solely on his race with Paterno, saying the university is protesting the decision on behalf of the nine other FSU coaches and scores of student-athletes.
"The thing about it is that it is not about me, and that is all I really hear from commentators," he said. "This is about all of our coaches and our teams. I think everyone is putting it on my wins. That is just part of it."
After FSU files its appeal, the NCAA can reverse the infraction committee's decision, uphold it or hand down different penalties in lieu of vacating wins.
"The whole crux of the thing to me is does the punishment fit the crime?" Bowden said. "I think that is the thing we've got to find the answer to right there."
FLORIDA: Redshirt sophomore Bryan Thomas received a medical exemption, effectively ending his football career. Thomas was rated the No. 11 safety prospect by Scout.com coming out of Zephyrhills High. He has appeared in 17 games on special teams and as a backup safety, registering 15 tackles, but he has battled knee injuries most of his college career. The exemption essentially means that Thomas, 21, won't play football again, but he can remain on scholarship to complete his education. His scholarship will not count against the Gators' limit.
In other news, receivers Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy were among Gators who worked out for NFL scouts in Gainesville on Wednesday.
Times staff writer Antonya English contributed to this report.