On Saturday ESPN made a big to do that 36 players were going to be missing the bowl game. When the scandal first came to light the number was thought to be 24 people. But, everyone loves a scandal and this is what it has turned into. By the players taking it upon themselves to cheat the system, it has brought attention to the program that people don't want. The guys who've been injured or whatnot have been tied to the group of players who cheated, and that is not fair to them.
As Associate Athletic Director Rob Wilson stated, "It is very important that the media make clear that those missing the bowl trip are not included because of either injury or for a violation of team policy. It would be irresponsible to imply or state that any or all of the student-athletes will miss the trip for one particular reason." But the focus of this article is to look at the scandal and what the 24 players tied to it will bring to the program. Will it bring probation, sanctions and coaching changes? Or, is the work of T.K. Wetherell and the academic staff at FSU enough to stop any regulations the NCAA could bring onto the Seminoles?
First it needs to be mentioned that no one is defending the actions of the players who took part in the cheating. These players are now young men who must be responsible for their actions. Now they must pay the consequences for taking advantage of the plentiful opportunities given to them by the university. Rival fan bases and other media outlets have taken this story and ran with it, and NoleDigest felt that this topic needed to be touched on so there is no confusion for fans and potential recruits who are interested in this story.
University President Wetherell held a press conference earlier this week announcing the details of the cheating and what the internal investigation found. "The violations focused on a poorly structured online course, lack of attention to detail by a faculty member, and insufficient oversight by the athletic department of one rogue tutor -- all coming together to result in a 'contaminated' class," Wetherell said in the statement. The student-athletes, who come from a number of sports, did not enroll in the course with the intent to do anything wrong. However, a university-employed tutor provided inappropriate help on exams. In the final analysis, these students made the decision to use the answers provided for an online exam, and they are suffering the consequences."
So where does this leave the FSU football program? While it has been stated that other athletes from the university participates in the scandal, the FSU football team will take the brunt of the coverage. With the all-time wins leader as its coach and a program as prestigious as FSU's, fans should not expect less. The football team is what put the university on the national map. By FSU self-reporting these violations there are trying to ensure that the NCAA will not slap them with the lack of institutional control violation, a violation that often leads to severe sanctions. Wetherell said the school expects to have its report to NCAA officials early next year. In response, the NCAA stated that each case is different and each case is looked at and acted on a timeline based on its complexity and whatever else is involved.
Many insiders feel that, while each case is different, FSU's harsh penalties and self-reporting will ease the sanctions govern by the NCAA. While former violations experienced at the University of Tennessee and University of Oklahoma ended in little to no sanctions by the NCAA, many people have painted a doom and gloom scenario in terms of what the Seminoles will receive. While there may be a potential of a lost scholarship here or there, many feel confident that there will be little to no probation. This means that current and potential players will be allotted the luxury of playing on national television, traveling to bowl games, and being eligible to play for the National title.
Remember, the schools listed previously worked harder at covering up their violations instead of doing their best to fox the potential problems. The university as a whole could face sanctions, but as for the football program itself, there will probably be no type of punishment for it because the university reported the cheating allegations to the NCAA itself in September. A few people involved in the cheating incident have been penalized already. Two academic assistance employees have resigned over the affair and two FSU players were punished a few months ago. Defensive end Kevin McNeill was forced to sit out the entire year and wide receiver Joslin Shaw was suspended for the first four games of the 2007 season because of their involvement in the growing scandal.
While the media has sensationalized this story because of the team and coach involved, some have taken it too far. This is without a doubt a black eye to the program and has raised questions about a legendary coach that could be discussed later. But Florida State needs to continue to make progressions to fix this situation. By handling the players the way they have and facing the situation up front, FSU is taking the right steps. By continuing building the class they have with quality character kids like E.J. Manuel and Nigel Bradham, FSU can turn the perception around of the players on the current roster.