When I saw the news of Florida State’s probation earlier today, that was indeed my first response – “cool, Joe will get a bigger lead as Division I’s all-time winningest coach!” I saw no reason to post this at the time because…
A) it still hasn’t been determined how many wins the Seminoles will lose
B) it seemed like a silly little thing that only Penn State and Florida State fans would really care about (and plenty of those would rather see both coaches leave the race entirely)
C) Of all the things to talk about in a story about academic fraud and the biggest big-name football probation in a while, the wins record seems trivial.
But, the record angle quickly became paramount, for ESPN’s Ivan Maisel as well as SI’s Andy Staples. And, in fact, it is significant on at least a couple of levels – one of which make FSU’s apparent wish to keep the program’s forfeits separate from the coach’s record just a tad ridiculous, the other of which makes it offensive.
See, as any Penn State-biased fan can tell you, it’s fitting that Bobby Bowden (above) might have to give up wins on a technicality, since he already has so many on a technicality – the 31 victories he earned at Howard College (now Samford University), which get folded into his career Division I record even though they didn’t happen at a D-I school. JoePa, of course, has never had another coaching job, so this has never been an issue for him. Perhaps the best way to resolve this would be for John Gagliardi to go coach a D-I school, but the 82 year-old St. John’s (MN) legend would have to put in 10 years before his 461 wins at at the D-III level got “promoted.”
More importantly, probation’s not a technicality. You cheat, you lose, and this is not the first time FSU has been in trouble in the ostensibly less seedy post-SMU era. Staples actually uses the word “SMU” in noting that the school should make sure it is totally forthcoming in identifying which players and games will factor into the vacated wins. And certainly, the NCAA didn’t mince words:
“The violations were serious and intentional; student-athletes competed while academically ineligible; there was a finding of institutional failure to monitor; there was widespread academic fraud; the academic fraud was perpetuated purposefully by three different individuals in the institution’s academic support services, including the former learning specialist.”
Now, Penn State’s halo has been tarnished over the past few years by legal issues. But it’s still a school that smokes every other football factory in terms of graduation rate, and one that has never come close to an NCAA violation (something no other Big 10 school besides Northwestern can claim). I don’t necessarily think Penn State is truly better than the often hypocritical, plainly money-driven world of football “student-athletes” – heck, Joe considers Bowden a good friend – but that track record counts for something – and now, officially, it counts for more.
There is good news for Bobby though: he is already in the Hall of Fame.