- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cheating scandal shows what matters at Florida State

Florida State’s motto is “Vires, artes, mores,” which means “Strength, skill, character.”

Apparently the football team has a slightly different motto: “Vires, artes, more wins for Bobby Bowden.”

Bowden, entering his 51st season as a coach and 34th season with the Seminoles, has 383 victories — one fewer than Penn State fixture Joe Paterno in the race for the most in the annals of major-college football.

The 79-year-old Bowden wants that record. And if it took cheating in the classroom to get some of those wins, well, so be it.

That’s not how the NCAA sees it, however. The ol’ coach and his colleagues in Tallahassee are in a dither after the NCAA infractions committee upheld a ruling to strip as many as 14 victories from Bowden’s total.

The NCAA levied the penalty because it found that a group of athletes had, from the fall of 2006 through the following summer, cheated on, of all things, an online exam in a music history course. The kind of class you cruise through to meet minimum course requirements. Others wrongfully got help from staffers — which the NCAA called “especially egregious” because they are supposed to uphold academic integrity — who typed papers for the athletes or provided them test answers. In all, 61 Seminoles athletes broke the rules. In response, the NCAA plans to strip 10 teams of victories, including 2007 track and field national title.

Florida State truly cares about just one part of the penalty.

“This committee is just wrong,” roared Florida State president T.K. Wetherell on Thursday, coincidentally the same day he announced his resignation. “The rationale for doing that isn’t accurate.”

In fact, there is a perfectly reasonable rationale. Widespread academic cheating at Minnesota in the ‘90s led to the firing of men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins. But surely the NCAA would never force one of the deans of football from his post. It is demanding a mere 14 victories.

For the record-crazed folks down in Tallahassee, however, that’s a draconian penalty. After all, it was the students who broke the rules, not the coach. Never mind that the only reason there’s such an enormous backlash from the university is that this involves Bobby Bowden and his pursuit of history.

“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.”

They’re also the figureheads obliged to take the credit and the blame for their programs. But not when it’s Bobby Bowden and his 383 victories. Can’t the NCAA take a few more wins from the track and field team?

Saturday’s Best Bet on Television

Former Maryland closer Brett Cecil is back in the area, this time as a starter for the Blue Jays. 7 p.m., MASN2

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