NCAA Announces Penalties in FSU Academic Scandal- UPDATE: FSU Responds

UPDATE 3-09 5:10 P.M.

FLORIDA STATE RESPONDS TO NCAA SANCTIONS

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State University officials said today that they are pleased that the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Committee on Infractions accepted the findings of its investigative committee and acknowledged that nearly all of the penalties self-imposed by the university were appropriate.

However, because it never knowingly played student-athletes who were ineligible and followed eligibility guidelines with which the NCAA agreed, the university will seek clarification of a specific penalty requiring it to vacate wins and will consider its appellate opportunities under NCAA procedures.

The NCAA issued its sanctions today for violations that occurred in connection with an online course in the fall semester of 2006, the spring semester of 2007, and the summer of 2007.

The NCAA reported no additional institutional findings beyond what the university had discovered. The NCAA also did not find a lack of institutional control. And it did not impose any sanctions that would restrict the university’s ability to compete in postseason competition this year or in any future years.

The NCAA also found that no coaching staff members were involved in any impropriety. The violations occurred in the athletic academic-advising sector of the university and not in the coaching sector.

“We believe that the NCAA confirmed that our investigative efforts and our self-imposed penalties were appropriate,” said Florida State President T.K. Wetherell. “We already began implementing our self-imposed penalties. And we will begin implementing all but one of the NCAA’s additional sanctions.”

“We just don’t understand the sanction to vacate all wins in athletics contests in which ineligible student-athletes competed because we did not allow anyone who we knew was ineligible to compete. Our position throughout the inquiry was that as soon as we knew of a problem, they didn’t play.”

Florida State Athletic Director Randy Spetman also offered a similar opinion on the vacation-of-records sanction.

“Our independent investigation concluded that our coaches did not know about the academic misconduct and never knowingly played any ineligible student-athlete,” Spetman said. “The NCAA’s report does not dispute that conclusion. Some of our student-athletes engaged in academic misconduct -- and we will suffer the consequences -- but I believe vacating wins is just wrong.”

Spetman, who was not the Florida State athletics director when the NCAA violations occurred, also said he was impressed by the university’s detailed and exhaustive investigation and thorough examination of all academic records in the case. “No stone was left unturned,” he said.

Wetherell concluded, “We had a serious issue occur on this campus. We discovered the violations, hired an outside compliance group to undertake a thorough and impartial inquiry, encouraged other student-athletes to come forward, and imposed significant penalties -- all actions we believe were validated by the NCAA. We will seriously consider our appeal options after having further discussions with the NCAA.”

The university’s initial investigation into possible NCAA violations stemmed from a student-athlete’s report of a questionable incident to a staff member. The university’s administration took action at this first hint of impropriety in March of 2007 and immediately began a thorough and exhaustive inquiry, including extensive examinations of computer records and files to search for any evidence of impropriety regarding NCAA or university rules.

In its 2008 report to the NCAA, the university announced that it had taken corrective and punitive actions that include:

1. Requiring all student-athletes with remaining eligibility, regardless of the grade received, who were enrolled in the course during the three semesters in question to retake the course for a new grade;

2. Instituting significant changes in the format and structure of certain online courses;

3. Implementing significant changes in the structure and processes of the Athletics Academic Support Services (AASS) unit;

4. Contracting with an outside consultant to conduct a review of the AASS unit;

5. Reviewing all online courses and requiring that all exams be taken in a proctor setting;

6. Examining and modifying the institution’s systems for monitoring academic course work taken by student-athletes;

7. Making (and continuing to make) personnel changes within the Athletics Department;

8. Imposing grant cuts in 10 sports, and

9. Reallocating funds from the Athletics Department to the AASS Unit.

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INDIANAPOLIS---The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has penalized Florida State University for major violations in its athletics program.

The case involved academic fraud affecting more than 60 student-athletes across 10 sports, as well as impermissible benefits, unethical conduct by three former academic support services staff members, and a failure to monitor by the university.

The sports programs involved in these violations include football, baseball, men's track and field, women's track and field, men's swimming, women's swimming, men's basketball, women's basketball, softball and men's golf.

Penalties for the violations include four years of probation, scholarship reductions, vacation of records, and show-cause penalties for the former staff members.

The show-cause penalties mandate that the former staff members' contact with student-athletes must be limited at any employing institutions. These limitations are further explained in the public report.

This case involved a former learning specialist, academic advisor and tutor at the University Athletics Academic Support Services (AASS), all of whom gave improper assistance to student-athletes, resulting in academic fraud.

The committee stated this case was "extremely serious" because of the large number of student-athletes involved and the fact that academic fraud is considered by the committee to be among the most egregious of NCAA rules violations.

A significant portion of the academic fraud violations involved a music course offered to students without incident for more than 10 years before its academic integrity was compromised in the fall semester of 2006, resulting in academic fraud occurring during this time, as well as the 2007 spring and summer semesters.

In addition to the academic improprieties associated with the online music course, the former learning specialist provided impermissible assistance to at least three student-athletes by typing portions of papers assigned to them. She also provided answers to an online psychology course quiz for a student-athlete by instructing a second student-athlete to complete the quiz on behalf of the student-athlete enrolled in the course.

Ultimately, 61 student-athletes went through the NCAA's reinstatement process as a result of these violations. The university believed it was likely that more student-athletes received improper assistance in the online music course, but it concluded the evidence to substantiate this belief was circumstantial and inconclusive.

The committee attributed the violations in this case to two primary factors. First, it said the online exams for the music course were not administered in a structured environment. There was no requirement for a proctor, and the university acknowledged that the course did not have sufficient safeguards in place to prevent students from obtaining exam answers. Second, the committee said that inconsistent supervision of the AASS created an environment that allowed the academic support personnel to take actions violating NCAA rules and university guidelines.

The three former staff members were charged with unethical conduct for knowingly arranging for fraudulent academic credit for numerous student-athletes and providing improper academic assistance. The former academic advisor also refused to cooperate with the investigation and violated another provision of NCAA ethical conduct rules, as well as the cooperative principle. The cooperative principle states that university and its staff have an obligation to assist the enforcement staff in developing full information on the case. As a result of the academic improprieties by the three staff members, 61 student-athletes also violated the ethical conduct rules, and several student-athletes competed while ineligible.

The penalties in this case are as follows:

• Public reprimand and censure.

• Four years of probation (March 6, 2009, to March 5, 2013).

• Scholarship reductions in football; men's and women's basketball; men's and women's swimming; men's and women's track and field; baseball; softball; and men's golf. Additional details are available in the public report.

• Vacation of all wins in which the 61 student-athletes in the sports of football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's swimming, men's and women's track, men's golf, baseball and softball competed while ineligible during 2006 and 2007. This includes regular season contests, postseason contests and any NCAA championship competition. The individual records of the student-athletes shall be vacated as well. Further, the institution's records regarding all of the involved sports, as well as the records of the head coaches of those sports will reflect the vacated records and will be recorded in all publications in which these records are reported, including, but not limited to, institution media guides, recruiting material, electronic and digital media plus institution and NCAA archives. Any public reference to tournament performances won during this time shall be removed, including, but not limited to, athletics department stationery and banners displayed in public areas such as the venues in which the specified teams compete.

• Five-year show-cause order for the former academic advisor (March 6, 2009, to March 5, 2014). Additional details are available in the public report.

• Four-year show-cause order for the former learning specialist (March 6, 2009, to March 5, 2013). Additional details are available in the public report.

• Three-year show-cause order for the former tutor (March 6, 2009, to March 5, 2012). Additional details are available in the public report.

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Associated Press:

NCAA: Florida State gets 4 years' probation

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP)

Florida State has been put on four years' probation by the NCAA and will lose scholarships in football and forfeit games because of an academic cheating scandal.

The NCAA infractions committee says Friday the case was "extremely serious'' because of the large number of student-athletes involved in various sports. Academic fraud is considered among the most egregious of NCAA rules violations.

Some five dozen Florida State athletes cheated on an online test 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.


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