May 31, 2009

What should happen to Bowden's 14 wins?

At the College Football Roundtable, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport.

Today's question: The NCAA is expected to rule this week on Florida State's appeal of the ruling that would strip 14 wins from Bobby Bowden as a result of the academic fraud that occurred at the school. Your thoughts on what should happen?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
I think stripping of wins or "vacating" them is absurd. So those wins weren't celebrated? Bets weren't collected? Fans didn't get to taunt their rivals? If the plan is to punish Bobby Bowden by ending his chance to be college football's all-time winningest coach, that's incredibly lame. Besides, it's not as if this was strictly a football-related incident; athletes in several sports were involved. Pretending a few games didn't occur or even forfeiting them isn't much of an issue.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
Florida State already has suffered enough through personnel changes in the athletic department and via self-imposed penalties. Among other things, FSU has cut scholarships in 10 sports and changed the format and structure in online courses the root of the problem. FSU never knowingly played any athletes who were ineligible and no coaches were involved in any impropriety. Perhaps most important, FSU has brought in a new athletic director in Randy Spetman, who is spearheading the revamped athletic department with his disciplined style learned as an Air Force graduate. Add it all up, and I don't think Florida State should have to endure any more sanctions.

David Fox's answer:
I don't see how vacating wins is different than putting an asterisk by steroid users in the baseball record book. Fine print isn't going to erase what actually happened on the field. Bobby Bowden will be punished enough that his biography must read "academic fraud in his final years." The NCAA shouldn't vacate wins; it should come down harder with its other embarrassingly feeble sanctions. The NCAA infractions committee says academic fraud is among the "most egregious" of violations. Probation and the loss of six football scholarships over three seasons isn't enough. Other FSU teams will lose scholarships, too, but if the NCAA feels strongly enough to punish FSU by vacating football wins, it should consider harsher penalties that will actually hurt the program in the present and future. A one-year bowl ban or more severe scholarship limits would hit the Florida State athletic department where it hurts in the wallet while also cutting into Bowden's win total.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
Call me cynical, but I have a hard time believing Florida State officials would be so vociferous if this didn't have a direct impact on Bobby Bowden's quest to become the winningest major-college coach. Heck, FSU president T.K. Wetherell has led the charge to get the wins restored. I think the NCAA will grant Florida State's appeal and "give back" those 14 wins to Bowden. But if I were Wetherell, I think I would have been much less visible in this case. It seems a bit unseemly for a university president to be so concerned about some football wins when academic fraud and a lot of it occurred in his athletic department.

Steve Megargee's answer:
It doesn't seem as though this case is all that different from the situation that faced Oklahoma a couple of years ago, when the Sooners were forced to vacate their wins from an 8-4 season in 2005 because they hadn't properly monitored the employment of a number of players at a car dealership. The players ended up getting paid for work they didn't perform. Oklahoma's wins later were restored because the university cooperated in the investigation. The Florida State case is more serious because it involves academic misconduct, but FSU officials cooperated with the NCAA's investigation and therefore probably should have their wins restored. Frankly, I don't understand how vacating wins serves as much of a deterrent in most cases. It seems to me that future scholarship reductions would be a much more effective penalty than trying to get fans to forget the results of a game they already watched. Of course, this is a unique circumstance because Florida State coach Bobby Bowden is pursuing Penn State's Joe Paterno for the career wins record. If he loses these 14 wins, Bowden has virtually no chance of catching Paterno. That makes this the one case where the penalty of vacating wins would actually have some bite. It will be interesting to see if the Bowden-Paterno chase for the record has any effect on the NCAA's decision, one way or another.

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