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March 6, 2009

FSU responds to NCAA sanctions

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 athletic 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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