TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The NCAA infractions committee intends to uphold sanctions against Florida State that would take away wins in 10 sports, including as many as 14 by football coach Bobby Bowden.
After a public-records lawsuit and intervention by Florida's attorney general, the NCAA allowed Florida State to release the committee's June 2 response to the university's appeal of the NCAA punishment, which would strip the school of the victories.
Though university officials had said earlier yesterday that there would be no comment, university president T.K. Wetherell denounced the NCAA's response.
"This committee is just wrong," Wetherell said. "The rationale for doing that isn't accurate."
Wetherell, a former Seminoles football player, said the school would exhaust all appeal opportunities with the NCAA "before going anywhere else."
If the penalty stands, Bowden, who is preparing for his 34th season at Florida State, would have little chance to stay abreast of Penn State's Joe Paterno in their competition to finish as major college football's winningest coach. Paterno will begin the 2009 season with 383 victories, one more than Bowden now has.
"There was no coach involved in this," Wetherell said. "The one group of people that were not involved in this thing were the coaches. They're the one group that's being penalized."
The NCAA said 61 Seminoles athletes cheated on an online test in a music-history course from the fall of 2006 through the summer of 2007, or received improper help from staffers who provided them with answers to the exam and typed papers for them.
"The most severe penalties are appropriate when the academic mission of the university has been compromised," the June 2 committee response said, citing the academic misconduct at the University of Minnesota that led to basketball coach Clem Haskins' firing.
A former academic counselor at Minnesota admitted to having written more than 400 papers and take-home tests for basketball players between 1993 and 1998, and said Haskins was aware of the cheating.
The committee's letter to Florida State said it did not consider taking away the wins and a 2007 national championship in track and field a severe penalty.
The NCAA called the involvement in the cheating by university staffers "especially egregious because of their positions as individuals charged specifically with maintaining academic integrity within the athletics program."
"This is the response from the committee on infractions, which entered the finding that we are appealing, so you wouldn't expect them to change their mind," said Bill Williams, the Tallahassee attorney handling the case for Florida State.
"We will respond to this, and then we ultimately have an oral argument before the infractions appeal committee in Indianapolis, and then they will make a final decision," he said.
Williams said he expected the hearing to be scheduled in late summer or early fall, but conceded that this was a guess.
The 23-page response said the loss of scholarships imposed as part of the original penalty would have been much greater without taking away victories in the various sports where athletes involved in the cheating had competed.