March 6, 2009


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida State received four years' probation from the NCAA on Friday and will lose scholarships in football and may forfeit games because of a widespread academic cheating scandal involving all 10 sports.

The NCAA report says 61 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.

Football coach Bobby Bowden, whose 382 wins are one behind Penn State's Joe Paterno for the most all-time among major college coaches, could have several victories taken away if players participated after their involvement in the cheating.

The university immediately issued a release that it would challenge any attempt to strip the school of any victories or championships.

"We did not allow anyone who we knew was ineligible to compete," Florida State President T.K. Wetherell said. "Our position throughout the inquiry was that as soon as we knew of a problem, they didn't play."

Dennis Thomas, commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, said the infractions committee does not consider an individual athlete or coach when contemplating penalties.

"The committee does not get into whether or not you have a famous athlete or a famous coach or if a record is involved," Thomas said. "The committee adjudicates the facts."

Wetherell said the school would seek clarification on vacating any wins as well as its appellate opportunities.

The committee called the Florida State case "extremely serious" because of the large number of student-athletes involved in various men and women's sports, citing unethical conduct by three former staff members and a failure to monitor by the university. Academic fraud is considered among the most egregious of NCAA rules violations.

The cheating occurred mainly through online testing for a single music history course in the fall of 2006 and the spring and summer semesters of 2007. It included staffers helping students on the test and, in one case, asking one athlete to take it for another.

The cheating took place in football, baseball, softball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's swimming, men's and women's track and field and men's golf.

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 last fall as part of their punishment.

Florida State officials conducted the investigation with assistance from the NCAA, Atlantic Coast Conference and a consulting firm. That report was sent to the NCAA, which then conducted its own investigation.