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Bowden: Forfeiting games not possible
The coach says FSU did not knowingly use ineligible players during games.
By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published December 21, 2007
If Florida State forfeited their wins this season, Bobby Bowden wouldn't be the all-time wins leader in major college football. With 373, he leads Penn State's Joe Paterno by two.
TALLAHASSEE - Florida State coach Bobby Bowden isn't worrying about having to forfeit games as a result of the academic misconduct scandal that has mushroomed and will force him to suspend about one-fourth of his team for the Music City Bowl.
"I don't think it's possible," he said after Thursday morning's practice. "We didn't intentionally play (anyone) we knew was ineligible. We held out two guys, (Kevin) McNeil and (Joslin) Shaw. ... That's us doing it because we felt it was the right thing to do. Everybody else? We didn't know the results until recently."
Bowden announced Tuesday that as many as 25 players won't make the trip to Nashville for a variety of reasons. Most of those players, none of whom have been named to comply with federal student-privacy laws, are believed to be connected to a course, Music and Western Culture, in which a tutor gave student-athletes answers prior to online tests.
Published reports say about a dozen of the players have been starters at some point. That means players now deemed to have violated rules participated in some, if not all, of FSU's seven wins.
A story Thursday in the New York Times raised the question whether FSU might have to forfeit or vacate those games. If that happened, Bowden, 78, wouldn't be the all-time wins leader in major college football. With 373, he leads Penn State's Joe Paterno by two.
"What does the New York Times know about it?" Bowden fired back. "What are they, 5 miles up the road?"
Mark Jones, a co-chairman of the collegiate sports practice for the Indianapolis law firm Ice Miller, which helps schools facing NCAA investigations, told the New York Times and reiterated to the St. Petersburg Times that forfeiting or vacating games is one possible, albeit not the most likely, sanction. (Forfeit means losing opponents would be given wins; vacating means FSU would be stripped of its wins but opponents' records would not change.)
"It doesn't happen every time, but that's one that the NCAA has begun imposing more frequently in the last five or six years," he told the St. Petersburg Times.
Just a couple of years ago, for example, the committee on infractions hit Georgia Tech football with penalties that included vacating wins in 1998 and 2004, but the school won its appeal.
"Generally, the committee tries to establish what a reasonable person would have done in the circumstances that are available to you," Jones said. "Certainly, it is an aggravating factor if the NCAA determines the school should have known they were using ineligible players."
In September when FSU released its preliminary findings that 23 student-athletes in nine sports were connected to the tutor, NCAA vice president for membership services Kevin Lennon commended FSU president T.K. Wetherell for "initiating an investigation ... and taking strong action to address this situation."
But at the urging of the NCAA, FSU expanded the scope of its probe to three semesters, beginning with spring 2007 and working backward, and more student-athletes have admitted wrongdoing. The total number might not be released until FSU completes its final report, which officials hope is next month.
"There's basic things you ask," said associate athletic director Bob Minnix, who spent two decades at the NCAA working in enforcement. "Did you intentionally do anything? When you found out, what did you do about it? Who was involved? You want to eliminate those questions, as many as you can and as early as you can by being forthcoming."
After the NCAA receives FSU's report, one that will contain self-imposed penalties, it will decide whether it needs to conduct its own investigation.