Florida State made its case why it should not vacate any wins in football and in nine other sports during its hearing before the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee on Sunday morning in an Indianapolis hotel.
"We worked every step of the way with the NCAA staff on this case, and we had an understanding that if we did everything as they said, all player eligibility matters would be resolved," school officials said in a statement that summed up their argument.
FSU and the NCAA enforcement and reinstatement staffs worked in concert to craft a deal in which student-athletes who came forward and admitted receiving help during exams in an on-line music course would only have to sit out 30 percent of their season and not face permanent ineligibility.
FSU officials said that "across-the-board agreement" was essential for them to investigate the scandal as thoroughly as possible. FSU also indicated, in a chart, that school president T.K. Wetherell met privately with then-NCAA president Myles Brand. Eventually, 39 more student-athletes came forward, bringing the total to 61.
But the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions said the deal only addressed eligibility going forward and that any student-athlete who cheated was ineligible from the moment of the fraud. That led to the vacating penalty, which could cost football coach Bobby Bowden all seven wins from 2007 and, according to an analysis of records by the St. Petersburg Times, four from 2006.
"We complied fully with this plan. We never played any ineligible players," FSU's statement said.
Tallahassee-based attorney Bill Williams, retained to handle FSU's appeal, also reiterated that the Committee on Infractions didn't specify the impact FSU's cooperation had on the sanctions — something the Appeals Committee has repeatedly said should be spelled out.
The five-member Infractions Appeals Committee, which posed questions to Williams and the other FSU officials present, including Wetherell, typically takes more than a month to decide a case. With the holidays coming up, FSU might not hear back until next year.
Bowden, 80, sounded sanguine on the eve of the hearing.
"I've got no idea what'll happen," he said. "I don't hear much hope. I don't hear anybody saying we're going to make it. I don't hear anybody saying that. I think (the NCAA is) making a mistake."
Brenda Monk, a former learning specialist at FSU and one of three former employees of the Athletics Academic Support Services office at the center of the case, has her hearing this morning. She has said she didn't commit fraud and is fighting the findings and the sanctions. Monk also is suing FSU for defamation and is seeking at least $600,000 in damages.