Twenty or more FSU players might be pulled from bowl

Updated: December 19, 2007, 2:20 AM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

At least 20 Florida State football players will be suspended from playing against Kentucky in the Dec. 31 Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, as well as the first three games of the 2008 season, for their roles in an academic cheating scandal involving an Internet-based course, a source with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday morning.

Florida State officials are expected to announce the results of the investigation this week. The source said university officials determined Monday night the exact number of football players who will be suspended. Federal privacy laws prohibit the school from releasing names.

"We have some players not traveling for one reason and some for another, including those who are ineligible for the bowl because of academic issues," coach Bobby Bowden said in a statement released by the university Tuesday.

Including walk-ons, the number of players facing suspension could approach 25. The source said student-athletes in several other sports also were implicated in the cheating scandal.

Federal privacy laws prohibit the school from releasing names.

"We don't know what that number is going to end up being exactly, but we know that's a rough figure," assistant athletic director Rob Wilson said Tuesday. "It's an issue where we're being extra cautious."

The investigation already has led to the resignations of two academic assistance employees, one of which was full-time academic adviser Brenda Monk, who worked with FSU student-athletes. The school revealed in September that as many as 23 student-athletes were given answers before taking exams over the Internet.

Further investigations revealed additional student-athletes were involved in the cheating, according to the source.

"If the players fight the suspensions, they'll risk losing all of their eligibility," a source with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday morning.

The school's investigation found that a tutor gave students answers while they were taking tests and filled in answers on quizzes and typed papers for students.

Florida State president T.K. Wetherell, a former Seminoles football player, reported the initial findings in a letter to the NCAA in September.

At least two Seminole football players already have been penalized for their involvement. Defensive end Kevin McNeil missed the season and wide receiver Joslin Shaw missed the first four games.

"[Bowl opponent] Kentucky would be a tough opponent when we are at full strength, so clearly this will make things more difficult," Bowden said. "Our staff is in the process of determining what adjustments we must make for the game."

Wetherell ordered an investigation by the university's Office of Audit Services in May after receiving information an athletics department tutor had directed one athlete to take an online quiz for another athlete and then provided the answers.

The tutor implicated in the audit told investigators he had been providing students with answers for the test since the fall of 2006, according to a university report.

Wisconsin was the last football program to suspend as many as 20 players. Days before the start of the 2000 regular season, 26 Badgers were given three- or one-game suspensions for getting unadvertised price breaks at a shoe store.

Florida State announced in October that athletics director Dave Hart Jr. will resign Dec. 31. Wetherell appointed State Rep. William "Bill" Proctor interim athletics director. Proctor also is a former FSU football player.

The school announced last week that longtime coach Bowden had agreed to a one-year contract extension through the 2008 season that will pay him at least $1.98 million. Bowden, who is in his 32nd season at the school, is major college football's all-time winningest coach with 373 career victories.

Florida State also designated offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher as Bowden's eventual successor. Fisher's new contract calls for him to replace Bowden by the end of the 2010 season. If Fisher isn't named FSU's new coach by then, the school's booster organization would owe him $2.5 million. Under the terms of the new contract, Fisher would owe Seminoles boosters $2.5 million if he leaves the school before the end of the 2010 season.

The Seminoles struggled for the fourth consecutive season in 2007, finishing 7-5 overall, 4-4 in ACC play. It is the fourth consecutive season they failed to win 10 games, after winning at least 10 games in 14 consecutive seasons, from 1987 to 2000.

Mark Schlabach is a college football reporter for ESPN.com. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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