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SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/27/2007 01:22:00 PM

FSU Could Meet NCAA's Wrath

While the NCAA is largely powerless to police the often shady academic practices -- jock majors, athlete-friendly teachers, etc. -- that are believed to take place at most football or basketball powerhouses, deliberate fraud is one area it takes quite seriously.

With that in mind, the report Florida State issued Wednesday regarding an internal investigation into acts of academic impropriety on the part of two university employees sounds quite serious and highly likely to result in NCAA ramifications.

According to the report, as described by the Florida Times-Union, a tutor and a “learning specialist” -- both of whom resigned last summer -- “perpetrated academic dishonesty” in their work with 23 athletes in nine different sports during the 2006-07 school year. The names of the players or the specific sports were not disclosed, though the school said the players involved have been suspended pending a petition to restore their eligibility.

The investigation centered around a specific online class in which 118 athletes were enrolled, of which 23 admitted to receiving or being directed to the answers by a tutor. The learning specialist also typed papers for five athletes. The probe apparently began when an athlete informed his academic advisor that the learning specialist had directed him to complete an online quiz on behalf of another athlete and was given the answers to the quiz. According to the Orlando Sentinel, when the athlete who was supposed to take the quiz asked for an extension, the learning specialist told him the quiz "was taken care of."

While Florida State will earn some leniency from the NCAA for uncovering the transgressions itself, there’s almost no question sanctions will be involved, considering school employees played a direct role and considering the large amount of athletes involved.

While I can think of no prior case that matches this one exactly, the two that immediately come to mind are a 2003 Fresno State basketball scandal in which an academic advisor and team statistician completed papers for several players, and a more widespread scandal at Georgia Tech around the same time in which 17 athletes (including 11 football players) over a six-year period were mistakenly ruled to be academically eligible.

Georgia Tech’s punishment was two years’ probation and the loss of six football scholarships for the 2005 and ’06 seasons. An initial ruling that records be vacated during the seasons in which the ineligible players competed (a la what happened to Oklahoma in the Rhett Bomar case) was dropped on appeal. Fresno State endured four years probation, a one-year postseason ban and a reduction in scholarships.

The NCAA enforcement process is far too nebulous to predict what exactly the response will be in this case. Based on what’s been reported, the specific acts of fraud more closely mirror the Fresno State case, but were apparently not limited to one sport, while the scope of culpability as well as the university’s quick reaction seems similar to Georgia Tech’s.

In the meantime, more details are sure to emerge in the coming weeks and months, including whether specific football or basketball players were involved. A key word will be “eligibility” – when did the improper acts take place relative to the athletes’ season and, in turn, did that render them ineligible at the time they competed? As we’ve seen, the NCAA does not take kindly to the use of ineligible athletes, even if inadvertent.

Based on what’s been reported so far, what would you do if you were the NCAA?
posted by Stewart Mandel | View comments |

Comments:

Posted: 3:44 PM   by Peter
The one thing that comes to mind is the (paraphrased) quote from your book, BP&TS, "laughing at the NCAA crackdown of one school while pretending that it doesn't go on at your school".

The issue of athlete culture and cheating has to be addressed somewhere around the middle school arena for any ground to be gained.

For example, instead of holding athletes to lower standards of grades, why not give them incentive to actually study and get good grades?
Posted: 4:36 PM   by Buckeye21
If I were the NCAA, I send a letter asking for a response. Then after six months or so, I'd send some folks on a trip to "investigate." I'd probably keep the public informed by making statements suggesting "we're gathering all the facts," "we are ensuring due process," and "we don't know what we don't know." After FSU spent a couple hundred thousand on retained outside counsel over the next 3 years and reviewed their academic compliance processes, I'd say "Well, the transgressors have all left campus and we really can't prove anything, so we're sending a letter of reprimand to FSU. Should this happen again (or at a school we can pick on easier) the consequences will be far greater."
Posted: 6:47 PM   by DCBOB
I think Bobby Bowden is an icon. Hell, I wish he had not been run out by WVU.

But, I think that his time is over. He is too old to stay on top of everything. Plus, his good old boy philosophies doesn't even involve the external processes that support major programs--I bet that he still thinks that football is played only on the field these days. And I wish he were right.

But his time is over, and I would like to see him pass the gauntlet on to Jimbo or sons, Tommy and Terry--I would love to see Florida State replace him with two co-head coaches, his sons.

That would be cool, and cause two years worth of print media's attention should it occur.
Posted: 6:47 PM   by M
Woo hoo!
Fresno State is back in the news!!
While you're at it, can you hype up this weekend's matchup with LA Tech? I think that they're an extremely underrated team! They almost beat Hawai'i, for goodness sake!
Posted: 6:53 PM   by troutman
My frustration is the delayed reporting of this to the public. Also, what happened to the schools mentioned in the article? Did they loose scholarships, find players ineligible, suspend players, fire teachers, coaches, and have outcome of games changed using ineligible players? This should have higher priority that spending days talking about some columnist personal attack of a player and the coaches poor choice of timing in his response.
Posted: 7:10 PM   by Gelson
This post has been removed by the author.
Posted: 7:11 PM   by Nole82
#1) Bobby Bowden has nothing to do with study time and students. That responsability is to the academic advisors at FSU.

#2) They do not mention any player from football, basketball or baseball. I find it hard to believe that none of them are involved considering the large quantity of student athletes at FSU.

#3) Having worked at the institution myself, I can vouch for them that they preach both to students and tutors the rights and wrongs as advised by the NCAA and FSU. While two individuals did commit infractions, there are still dozens of others that geniunely care for the integrity of academics. By all means the school should be punished. But they did find irregularities, conducted an audit, disclosed the circumstances and are awaiting NCAA reviews. There are not many instances such as this elsewhere, with another that comes to mind being at Oklahoma.
Posted: 7:14 PM   by vasman
Perhaps the NCAA can have Mike Gundy scream at FSU athletic administrators.
Posted: 7:23 PM   by Wade
Can't we just get rid of the NCAA? I mean, as Tim Layden of SportsIllustrated said, they're not really "Amateur" atheletes, so why the need for the NCAA? Or are they amateurs when SI wants them to be?
Posted: 7:57 PM   by Aaron
Poor FSU, they aren't an NCAA darling, so look out! You guys are going to lose your records for that year in all sports that were involved, and lose some scholarships in them as well. To bad that you aren't Auburn, or USC, those guys are untouchables. Auburn burries it's academic fraud case a few years back, and USC has folks giving their kids parents million dollar homes. Well, join the club FSU fans, your program finds a problem, self-reports it, and fully cooperate with the NCAA, and you will get smacked down hard.

FSU should have learned a lesson from Bomar and Bush, keep your mouth shout about any NCAA violations you find, and don't cooperate with the NCAA, and you will be fine.
Posted: 8:38 PM   by Mark Adelman
arron said it. i'm a miami student so i'm happy to see anything go wrong at FSU. That said, though, the NCAA has proven that the best way for a school to deal with their transgressions is to cover them up. If USC can get off scot free while oklahoma forfeits wins, schools ought to just keep their mouths shut
Posted: 8:53 PM   by M
Well Mark Adelman - typical Miami fan response. You're missing the whole point! With that said, as an FSU grad, I welcome the investigation of the NCAA. FSU is no different than any other school. If FSU employees and/or athletes did something wrong then they will have to pay the pauper - just like any other school. At least FSU's being up front about the entire matter. How bout the other unversity powerhouses, hmmmm?
Posted: 9:24 PM   by Jason
You need to read the local paper. It is specific that it does not affect basketball, baseball or any of the track athletes from the last two national championships. It there were two football players involved, Joslin Shaw and Kevin McNeil both of whom were suspended before the season started and did not play a down. As an alum I am glad FSU stepped up to the plate and took responsibility for the issue. I am sure punishment will follow but this is not a "football" issue as some media outlets are trying to make. The coaches were not aware of the investigation until it was almost complete and did not have a part in it.
Posted: 12:10 AM   by SasQuatch
This post has been removed by the author.
Posted: 8:24 AM   by Larry
It's unfortunate that the NCAA has seemingly been inconsistent in how strictly it deals with these kinds of issues, but it definitely needs to crack down as this likely happens all over the place. In addition, because this kind of behavior is completely contrary to the basic mission of universities, the universities themselves should be VERY tough and fire anyone associated with this...up to and including faculty if that's the case. Accountability needs to be driven both externally (by the NCAA) and internally by the university. Tutoring systems, etc. for athletes are a good idea, IMHO, NOT because the athletes are privileged but because they do indeed have greater demands on their time with travel, practice, etc. but there needs to be a definite line in the sand that you just don't cross, period, if for no other reason than you KNOW you'll lose your job.
Posted: 10:47 AM   by kevin
If I were the NCAA, I would complete my investigation on USC and Reggie Bush, before I decided to go after those voluntarily providing information.
Posted: 12:09 PM   by Sara
This is the sort of thing that happens when institutions of higher learning admit people who can barely read or write but can run really fast.
Posted: 1:03 PM   by Aaron
isn't it obvious? Investigate further, it is Alabama's fault. Put them on probation.
Posted: 4:00 PM   by Shape
How does a ban on post-season play affect the football team?
Other than two possible football players (McNeil and Shaw who have not even played a snap this year), and who could still be cleared, it doesn't involve any current players in the big three sports.

As much as the media wants to make this a football issue, it really involves the Olympic sports which including females.

FSU has made great strides with their female athletics. It would be a shame to see any of their sports get hid hard by the NCAA with the stupidy of a few.
Here is a radical idea:

Eliminate all the academic assistance football players (and other athletes get) unless the regular student body has access to the exact same services. Yes, there are tutors and such, but what is the ratio of tutors and learning specialists (what a crock) to athletes and to the general student body?

Here is another radical idea:

Eliminate the myth of the student athlete. Figure out what it costs to go to school (and make it the REAL cost). Give the athletes the cash and then let them decide if they want to attend classes or not. Move the athletic department to the admissions/marketing arm of the university.

Stew forgot to mention the UGA basketball (primarily) scandal with the scummiest family in coaching---the Harricks.
Posted: 5:22 PM   by Steven
Just a thought--maybe Jon Wilner (San Jose Mercury writer whose ranking Mandel picked on) isn't such an idiot after all.
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