NCAA rejects FSU's appeal of penalties

Updated: January 5, 2010, 6:29 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The NCAA has upheld its decision to vacate up to 14 victories from former football coach Bobby Bowden as part of its penalty in an academic cheating scandal.

Bowden retired as major college football's second most-winning coach with 389 wins after Florida State's 33-21 Konica Minolta Gator Bowl victory over West Virginia on New Year's Day. Penn State's Joe Paterno, who is still coaching, has 394 wins.

Dinich: Time To Let It Go

Now that Bobby Bowden has retired -- and retired trailing Penn State's Joe Paterno -- Florida State should back off in its fight with the NCAA, Heather Dinich writes. Blog

The 80-year-old Bowden was in California on Tuesday to present a Fellowship of Christian Athletes award named after him and not immediately available to comment on the decision.

University officials, however, said they were surprised and disappointed by the NCAA's decision.

"We believed that our administration did everything it possibly could to ferret out any and all improprieties in this matter," Florida State athletic director Randy Spetman said.

The NCAA could take wins away in as many as 10 Florida State athletic programs, including possibly stripping Florida State of one of three straight NCAA track championships won between 2006 and 2008.

The NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee said Tuesday the cooperative efforts of the university in the academic cheating scandal involving 61 Florida State athletes failed to outweigh the aggravating factors in the case.

"The case also included impermissible benefits, unethical conduct by three former academic support services staff members and a failure to monitor by the university," the NCAA statement said.

Twenty-five football players were among the athletes who cheated on an online test in a music history course from the fall of 2006 through summer 2007 or received improper help from staffers who provided them with answers to the exam and typed papers for them.

In its appeal, Florida State called the sanctions that included vacating wins "excessive" and claimed the NCAA did not appropriately weigh its cooperation during the investigation. The school agreed to four years of probation and scholarship reductions.

The university still must certify which games ineligible players competed in to determine the number of wins and individual records that will be nullified.

"This will take some time," Spetman said. "We didn't believe it was a process we should go through."

The NCAA also upheld the penalty imposed against one of the central figures in the scandal, Brenda Monk, the former learning specialist who worked with the most academically at-risk athletes in the Florida State program.

Monk had received what is known as a "show-cause" action, requiring any college that hires her before 2013 to explain why it shouldn't be punished if she is allowed to work with athletes. The NCAA accused her of unethical conduct and academic fraud for allegedly typing papers for three athletes, and providing test answers to others, charges she contested.

In an ESPN "Outside the Lines" story on Dec. 13, Monk claimed that much of the help she provided was justified because she was working with athletes who were learning disabled. She told OTL that more than one-third of the football team, and three-quarters of the basketball team, had a diagnosis of LD. Monk said Bowden and other coaches recruited athletes who read at a grade-school level in some cases, as well as a few players with very low IQs who could not have survived on a college campus without intensive academic support.

Monk's Tallahassee-based lawyer, Brant Hargrove, said Tuesday that he formally asked the NCAA in December to consider the findings of the OTL report, in which Monk said Bowden knew how she worked with athletes -- a charge Bowden has denied. Hargrove said he did not receive a response.

Monk's criticisms, though, were more directed at athletic department and campus officials who she said supported the way she worked with athletes between 2001, when she was hired, and 2007, when she resigned.

Monk, now the principal at a prison school, has filed a defamation lawsuit against Florida State. Hargrove told ESPN's Tom Farrey that he plans to continue to pursue that action despite potential damages to his client being capped at $100,000 under state law.

"This stopped being about money a long time ago," Hargrove said. "It's about reputation."

Hargrove said he was disappointed in the NCAA appellate committee's decision, for both Monk and Bowden.

"I love Bobby Bowden, he brought FSU from nothing to something," Hargrove told Farrey. "Brenda's case has nothing to do with Bobby Bowden. Brenda's case is about an inept [FSU] administration."

Tom Farrey reports for "E:60" and "Outside the Lines." Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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