Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden should not be forced to vacate wins because the school's cooperation in the NCAA's academic misconduct investigation wasn't given sufficient consideration, the school said in its written appeal.
Tallahassee attorney Bill Williams said that even if the Division I Infractions Appeals Committee were to uphold the lone sanction FSU chose to fight in the case, it should not force a "reconfiguring" of innocent coaches' records.
"(That) would be excessive and arbitrary since it is undisputed that none of the head coaches was at all responsible for the misconduct that occurred," Williams wrote in the 28-page appeal that was released publicly Thursday afternoon.
While vacating wins would affect 10 sports in which the implicated 61 student-athletes competed in during 2006 and 2007, the biggest loser stands to be Bowden. (That despite the 2007 NCAA men's outdoor track and field title possibly being in jeopardy as well as NCAA postseason appearances in numerous other sports.)
Bowden ended last season with 382 career wins to trail Penn State's Joe Paterno by one for the all-time lead among Division I-A coaches. But given the sanctions, Bowden, 79, would lose all seven wins from the 2007 season and possibly more from the seven-win 2006 season, likely putting Paterno, 82, beyond reach.
The FSU appeal refers extensively to a recent case involving Oklahoma football players who were paid thousands of dollars for work they didn't do at a car dealership. Among the penalties was a vacating of wins from the 2005 season.
"In this case, the institution's cooperation was a significant factor in the ultimate detection of the violations … (and) the Committee on Infractions report did not acknowledge or discuss the nature or extent of the institution's cooperation, nor specify what weight, if any, it was given," the appeals committee wrote in February 2008.
That flew counter to a precedent it established in 1995 in a case involving Mississippi, saying that a school's cooperation had to be given "substantial weight in determining and imposing penalties" or it would be a "disincentive to the fullest possible institutional cooperation." Oklahoma's wins that season were safe.
In the FSU case, the Committee on Infractions simply said in its report that the school "met its obligation" under NCAA rules to cooperate.
Williams called that "opaquely" and with "pointed brevity" and proceeded to cite specific dates when FSU and the NCAA enforcement staff discussed the case and how much the two had actually partnered.
He urged the appeals committee "should not retreat from its consistent position that cooperation and corrective action are mitigations which the Committee on Infractions, in the imposition of penalties, must discuss and weigh."
The Committee on Infractions now has until May 26 to respond to FSU's appeal. FSU then has 14 days to offer a rebuttal. The NCAA enforcement staff might also submit a response to which FSU would have 10 days to answer. FSU has requested a hearing before the five-member appeal committee, which will be scheduled later.