TALLAHASSEE, Fla. The NCAA infractions committee intends to uphold sanctions against Florida State that would take away wins in 10 sports, including as many as 14 by football coach Bobby Bowden.
After a public records lawsuit and intervention by Florida's attorney general, the NCAA allowed Florida State to release the committee's June 2 response to FSU's appeal of the NCAA punishment that would strip the school of the victories.
Though university officials had said earlier today that would be no comment from Florida State, president T.K. Wetherell denounced the NCAA's response.
"This committee is just wrong," Wetherell said. "The rationale for doing that isn't accurate."
Wetherell, a former Seminole football player, said the school would exhaust all appeal opportunities with the NCAA "before going anywhere else."
Bowden, who is preparing for his 34th season at Florida State, would have little chance to stay abreast of Penn State's Joe Paterno in their competition to finish as major college football's winningest coach if the penalty sticks. Paterno begins the 2009 season with 383 wins, right now that is one more than Bowden.
"There was no coach involved in this," Wetherell said. "The one group of people that were not involved in this thing were the coaches. They're the one group that's being penalized."
The NCAA said 61 Seminole athletes 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.
"The most severe penalties are appropriate when the academic mission of the university has been compromised," the June 2 infractions committee response said, citing the academic misconduct at the University of Minnesota that led to basketball coach Clem Haskins' firing.
A former academic counselor at Minnesota admitted to having written more than 400 papers and take-home tests for Gophers basketball players between 1993 and 1998 and said Haskins was aware of the cheating.
The committee's letter to Florida State said it did not consider taking away wins and a 2007 national championship in track and field as a severe penalty.
The NCAA called Florida State's staff involvement in the cheating "especially egregious because of their positions as individuals charged specifically with maintaining academic integrity within the athletics program."
"This is the response from the committee on infractions which entered the finding that we are appealing so you wouldn't expect them to change their mind," said Bill Williams, the Tallahassee attorney handling the case for Florida State. "We will respond to this and then we ultimately have an oral argument before the infractions appeal committee in Indianapolis (Ind.) and then they will make a final decision."
Williams said he expected the hearing would be scheduled in late summer or early fall, but admitted that was a guess.
"Heck, it could be anytime," he said.
The 23-page response said the loss of scholarships imposed as part of the original penalty would have been much greater without taking away victories in the various sports where athletes involved in the cheating had competed.
Florida State did not challenge the loss of scholarship reductions that included two in football this year and another next year.
Florida State played in the 2007 Music City Bowl without two dozen players, including several starters. The Seminoles were defeated by Kentucky. Many of the same athletes were held out of the first three games on the 2008 season as part of their punishment.