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FSU expands probe, plans for sanctions

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published December 7, 2007


Florida State's investigation into a case of academic misconduct has become more difficult and potentially more problematic with the Music City Bowl fast approaching.

The school initially found 23 student-athletes in nine sports, including football, were given answers by a tutor for an online test in an online class, but at the urging of the NCAA, the internal investigation has expanded.

"We're following their guideline to stay in lockstep," FSU president T.K. Wetherell said Thursday. "We were dealing with one semester and one class when we started, now we're dealing with three semesters back to the summer of 2006 even though none of the data suggests there's a problem there."

That's meant hundreds more students to interview, some of whom are or were student-athletes. That means there's the possibility of more admissions; and some could be football players whose next game is Dec. 31 against Kentucky in Nashville. Or not.

"That's a true statement," Wetherell said. "It's not a probable statement."

Receiver Joslin Shaw, a senior from Plant City, was one of the 23 and he was held out for the first month before he was cleared to play beginning Oct. 6 against North Carolina State. Sophomore defensive end Kevin McNeil has been held out the entire season and his status remains unclear.

"There's an NCAA rule that if you knowingly play someone who's ineligible, you could forfeit the game," Wetherell said. "We don't know of anybody we've played (who was ineligible), but we're going back and looking and double checking and re-asking and re-asking and trying to get answers. ... We don't know the answers right now."

Student confidentiality prevents Wetherell, or any school official, from naming names or commenting on specific players. The school's final report to the NCAA, which officials had hoped to finish last month, is still not done, but Wetherell said it will include self-imposed sanctions that could mean a loss in scholarships.

Wetherell also said he plans to hire a new athletic director in January, which means he's zeroing in on a candidate(s). The advisory search committee that includes faculty, staff, students and alumni met for the first time Thursday afternoon.

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347.