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FSU questions UF recruiting tactics

Florida State has asked the NCAA to render an opinion on whether certain recruiting activities conducted at Florida are permitted by NCAA rules.

"We're not turning them in," FSU compliance coordinator Brian Battle told the Times on Friday afternoon. "We want a clarification from the NCAA. Can they do it? If they can, just let us know. Let's play on an even playing field."

FSU said it based its clarification request on a story in Gator Bait, a weekly publication that covers UF sports. According to the article, FSU said, Florida put on an extravagant pregame simulation recently for a group of its college football recruits, including personalized Gator jerseys, a team bus with a police escort and band members and fans greeting the recruits. The recruits ran onto the field, where their names were displayed on the replay board.

"We've been thinking about doing the same kind of things ourselves; our coaches want to step it up," associate athletic director Bob Minnix said, adding he has said no until he gets an NCAA ruling.

Florida athletic officials did not return phone calls Friday afternoon.

Minnix said Friday that the NCAA enforcement staff has not replied to his brief letter.

It is the NCAA's policy not to comment on pending cases or hypothetical situations involving recruiting.

"Every case is different because the facts vary so much," said Kay Hawes, associate director of Media Relations for the NCAA. "We avoid recruiting hypotheticals because there are too many variables."

Hawes said once a school asks for a clarification, the NCAA's Membership Services department evaluates and rules.

Minnix also asked the NCAA to clarify a coach's role during a high school state championship game on his homefield. FSU received numerous photos of UF coach Ron Zook on Florida Field during the FHSAA state championships in December.

NCAA rules allow a coach to be on the field during a game, but he isn't allowed to have intentional contact with a high school player before the end of a game and until he has been released by his coach postgame.

Doak Campbell Stadium served as the championship site for two years (2001-02), and FSU was told by the NCAA that "incidental contact" was okay, but Minnix and Battle saw that as a gray area open to wide interpretation and potentially problematic. They told the football coaches to steer clear of the field, avoiding the appearance of any impropriety.

"We didn't want them in that position," Battle said. "We had coaching staffs from two other schools, both in the Southeast, talking to players on our field and we asked security to ask them to move into the stands."

Battle said though the rival schools often compete for many of the same prospects annually, the request to the NCAA had nothing to do with "bad blood."

"The bottom line is having a level playing field," Battle said. "We're getting tired of telling our coaches not to do something and other schools are doing it."

SENIOR BOWL: North Carolina State's Philip Rivers, one of the most prolific passers in NCAA history, will play in his home state in today's game in Mobile, Ala., a showcase for NFL prospects.

Rivers, who will play for the South, headlines a quarterback group that includes Virginia's Matt Schaub and Tulane's J.P. Losman. Michigan's John Navarre, Washington's Cody Pickett and Bowling Green's Josh Harris will play for the North.

Though most are regarded as legitimate NFL prospects, the game will be missing the top two. Mississippi's Eli Manning declined an invitation, and Miami of Ohio's Ben Roethlisberger was a junior.

ILLINOIS: The NCAA granted quarterback Jon Beutjer a sixth year of eligibility. Beutjer, who started seven games last season before being sidelined by a back injury, had asked for the extra year before the season because of the circumstances surrounding his transfer from Iowa in 2001. He began his college career with the Hawkeyes in 1999 but left after suffering a concussion during a fight with his teammate and roommate over payment of a cable television bill.

MIAMI: Dan Werner, the quarterbacks coach the past three seasons, was promoted to offensive coordinator, coach Larry Coker said. He replaces Rob Chudzinski, who left this month to become tight ends coach with the Browns. Coker also hired defensive backs coach Tim Walton and tight ends coach Mario Cristobal.

UCLA: Running back Tyler Ebell said he plans to transfer to Texas-El Paso. Ebell, who set a Bruins freshman record with 994 yards two years ago, started eight games this season and ran for 501 yards.

OBITUARY: Former Georgia All-American Royce Smith, a guard who played two seasons in the NFL with the Falcons, died Thursday in Claxton, Ga. He was 54.

_ Times staff writer Brian Landman contributed to this report, which used information from Times wires.