OK, I've been biting my tongue on this whole Florida State thing, not least because there's been plenty to write about for the team(s) this blog is actually supposed to be covering, but there's much that needs to be said here, too.
I haven't made much of a secret of the fact that Florida State is one of my least favorite college teams of all time. So this may come off as biased. Sure, it's biased. I hate TFSU and love me some UVA. But don't make the mistake of thinking I'm making mountains out of molehills just because I'm just a biased ol' blabbermouth on the Internet. It's the other way 'round. I hate TFSU because they do stuff like this. Cheat, and do everything in their power to weasel out of punishment.
I refer, of course, to the academic scandal that first reared it's head in December of 2007. Details here if you've forgotten. I've already criticized the school and Dadgum Bobby Bowden for their response to it, especially, and rather egregiously, scheduling the poorest excuses for opponents they could find in order to pad the impact of the resulting suspensions.
It's time for this thing to get its own post, though. These guys won't shut up about how patently unfair the penalty is. They have to vacate wins: oh no! Why is this unfair? "It wasn't the coaches' fault," says Dadgum Bobby. Why, that would imply that it's the coaches being unfairly punished. We all know what's at stake for Bowden. This stuff "didn't bother" him until he learned he might suffer some kind of consquence for him. Let the players take the fall. Let the school's worker bees take the fall. Ol' Bobby didn't know what was going on. I mean, no reason a head coach should bother looking into what his players are up to.
Here's the thing: Vacating wins is a stupid punishment. When Florida State took the field on seven different Saturday afternoons in 2007 and in 2006, a football game was played. Everyone at the game remembers the outcome. Florida State scored more points than the other team. Nobody's going to say, oh, I was at the TFSU-Alabama game and nothing happened. The University of Michigan had to vacate its postseason runs involving the Fab Five; if those wins don't exist in the record books, then who did North Carolina beat in the title game? It's silly. And furthermore it does very little to deter future shenanigans. Recruits don't care what the NCAA's pieces of paper say about a game that happened in October three years ago. Vacating wins is a slap on the wrist and I actually wish the NCAA would do away with it as a punishment. They should be focused on making it harder to win in the future rather than taking away the ones in the past.
That said, vacating wins is what the NCAA has decided on. I don't know what TFSU thinks they should do in this case. Would they prefer a postseason ban? A TV ban? A draconian scholarship hit?
Because it's not like the NCAA has been inconsistent in its application of the rules. Here's a list of academic scandals in the last couple of decades or so. It's not comprehensive, but they all have one thing in common: the team in question vacated or forfeited wins. See if you can guess which is the TFSU one:
- A basketball team's office manager and team tutor writes over 400 papers for 18 players over a five-year period. The team vacates all postseason appearances from its record, among other punishments.
- A basketball coach gives A's to three players who never attend his basketball strategy class. The team vacates half its wins from the 2001-02 season and all of them in 2002-03.
- Two football assistant coaches find correspondence courses for their players to earn credits in, allow those players the use of their computers to write papers for these courses, and pay to mail off said papers. The team vacates all wins from 2007.
- A school's academic advisors and tutors provide answers for online quizzes in multiple classes and illegally edit and type papers for athletes on multiple teams. The school vacates wins in each affected sport in 2006 and 2007.
- A school admits a basketball player holding only a welder's certificate rather than an associate's degree from a junior college, violating academic and transfer guidelines. Among other punishments, the team forfeits its six conference wins from that season.
- A basketball team uses a player not actually enrolled in a full-time course program as required and provides him financial aid; additionally, an academic advisor prepares course work for two other players. The team, among other punishments, vacates the record of its performance in the 2000 NCAA tournament.
- A D-II basketball team provides completed homework to a player and admits to other "academic irregularities". The team voluntarily forfeits its entire 2008-09 season.
Some of these involved coaches, some did not. Some are basketball, some football. All are academic shenanigans, some more serious than others; indeed, some less serious than TFSU's. And all involve vacated or forfeited wins; in fact, "vacating" is a lighter punishment than "forfeiting", because TFSU's record from the vacated seasons will be 0-6 rather than 0-13. For what that's worth.
In fact, the list of coaches with portions of their record is extremely long and distinguished. There's no special treatment for Dadgum Bobby here.
There is a pattern here, though. Use ineligible players, and the NCAA will take away the wins you achieved with those players.. This isn't hard to understand nor is it inconsistent. I may not agree with the idea but it is consistent. And it is light. Going forward, TFSU will have very, very little competitive disadvantage. Probation? Probation is something you give a school to inform that after a certain amount of time, further shenanigans will be treated as if they're the first ones to happen. The NCAA obviously does not care about the impact on what will likely now be Joe Paterno's record, and it shouldn't. Given TFSU's track record (Dillards, shoes, academics, etc.) it's very annoying to hear them complain about "hitting a flea with a sledgehammer" (again, when the penalties aren't even that nasty) and extremely nauseating to hear them whine about the NCAA's "arrogance"; how dare the NCAA punish us.
Is it any wonder why the rest of the ACC hopes the next winless season the Seminoles churn out is fully earned on the field, and not the last?