Bobby Bowden in Danger: Can the NCAA Hand Joe Paterno the Title?

Ryan MeyerContributor IMarch 7, 2009

Florida State football fans might have quite a gripe for many years to come. 

As most college football fans know, Bobby Bowden and Penn State head coach, Joe Paterno, have been battling for the all-time wins record for quite a few years. Currently, Bowden is one win behind the famous Nittany Lions coach.

However, the NCAA Committee on Infractions has penalized 10 Florida State athletic programs for major violations stemming from an academic cheating scandal. Effected sports were football, baseball, men’s track and field, women’s track and field, men’s golf, men’s swimming, women’s swimming, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and softball.

Sixty-one athletes from the 10 sports cheated during an on-line course. Florida State’s internal investigation found three staff-members helped athletes on a test in a music history course. One instance included one athlete taking a test for another.

Florida State did penalize itself after learning of the cheating scandal; however, the NCAA ruled Friday that the school will face loss of scholarships and must forfeit any game an ineligible player was used.

Now, the Bowden-Paterno race may not be so close. 

The NCAA has once again proven the inexistence of any bit of brain power. NCAA student-athletes, especially those participating in major sports are under constant scrutiny to succeed, not only athletically, but academically as well.

Athletic departments fund learning centers for student-athletes to ensure these young men and women stay eligible. Tutors are placed with athletes who fall behind in their studies. 

Occasionally, as is the case with Florida State, one advisor slips-through-the-cracks. With that comes an athlete who takes advantage of something that is provided, whether it’s unethical or not.

For a head-coaching race that began during Bobby Bowden’s West Virginia debut in 1970, ask yourself one question. Even if you don’t care about either team, do you want this race to be decided by the NCAA, an unethical student advisor, a “helpful” teaching assistant, and a few athletes that took the easy route?

Many college football fans argue the race between Bowden and Paterno is ruining their program’s success. A few more think Paterno shouldn’t receive credit for a win for merely showing up on Saturday afternoon and sitting in the coach’s box.

A lot more, at least now, think Bowden has no control over his program.

All are valid points and all have credible arguments to back them up. However, do you want the NCAA to take away the battle of these two historic coaches?

How does the NCAA explain to one player that another player has ruined any chance of the team accomplishing something two-and-a-half years after the fact? 

While Florida State didn’t have great ’06 or ’07 seasons, especially with their program’s expectations, the program and Bowden now face the possibility of having 14 victories taken away from them.

Not only has Florida State officials stated they were unaware of the cheating, they have also attempted to explain that any known, ineligible player was kept out of competition, including a 2007 Music City bowl loss to Kentucky.

Now, one of the last half-century’s greatest battles in sports is on the verge of forfeiture because of the unethical practices stemming from an on-line course.

Let’s face it; on-line courses are a breeding ground for cheating. The courses are implemented to help people earn credits without actually attending a class. Any take-home or on-line test provides every opportunity to cheat.

In this case, 61 student-athletes decided an easy way to earn a few credits was to take this course. Maybe they heard it was an easy grade-point-average booster. Maybe they found out about the extra “help” they could receive.

Whatever the case, we are comparing full-time student-athletes to tutors and advisors, whose main goal is improving and maintaining academic success of those same athletes. 

Unfortunately, for Florida State, not every football player had the academic capability of quarterback Christian Ponder, who graduated from undergraduate school before the ’08 season. Another student, starting safety and Rhodes Scholarship winner, Myron Rolle didn’t need the help from an on-line class.

However, many students will take whatever help they can get.

Let’s not forget, these kids are still kids. These kids, the majority of which are 17-24-years-old, work hard to impress a fanbase of thousands who they’ve never met before.  Now every teammate at Florida State must suffer.

Not only that, Bowden, and his 38 years of coaching, are now in jeopardy of losing the all-time wins record by double-digits. 

Fair or not, the NCAA has decided all student-athletes in those participating sports must suffer.

Now Joe Pa can sit up in that coach’s box, without a worry in the world, knowing the NCAA Committee on Infractions has decided he will be the all-time wins king. On the other hand, a lot of people will count those 14 wins.