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Colleges

Sanctions could cost Bowden career victory record

The Tallahassee Democrat
Published:   |   Updated: March 23, 2013 at 08:28 AM
TALLAHASSEE -

How the NCAA conducts its business in preferred secrecy or its threat of taking away due process from its members may not draw the nation's attention.

Bobby Bowden versus Joe Paterno certainly does.

That much is clear in the wake of a mandate by the NCAA's Committee on Infractions that Florida State vacate wins in as many as 10 sports because of an academic-misconduct case. If those sanctions stand, FSU football coach Bobby Bowden could lose as many as 14 victories from the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

That would end the competition between two legendary coaches who are at the top of major college football's all-time wins list. Penn State's 82-year old Paterno has one more victory than Bowden's 382.

"I just have the ultimate faith they'll be wise and very fair about this," said Grant Teaff, a former Baylor coach and friend of Bowden's who also is the Executive Director of the College Football Coaches Association. "Every coach needs to have that fairness. But certainly, particularly a man of Coach Bowden's stature and what he has brought to the game both in terms of victories and leadership, it is important to many of us."

Interestingly, even among some at Penn State, there is no begrudging these victories. (Though those 31 victories Bowden won at then-Howard University are a different matter for Nittany Lion fans.) Malcolm Moran, a veteran journalist and Knight Chair in Sports Journalism at Penn State University, said Paterno has seen to that in repeatedly saying that victories should not be taken away.

"In fairness, that has defused a lot of it from this end," said Moran, "Joe has been consistent any time someone has asked him, that he thinks Bobby should be credited with the games that his team has won."

The NCAA's recent move toward vacating of victories as the penalty of choice certainly has had the attention of universities such as Oklahoma, Alabama and Memphis. Moran sees the penalty as the newest weapon in the NCAA's age-old fight.

"The ongoing larger issue, and this continues to evolve in terms of the infractions committee,' said Moran, "and the ongoing discussion is how can they create the most effective deterrent. You have to think that is always going to be a significant challenge - how you come up with enough of a deterrent that you can alter the behavior of people who might be tempted to cut corners."

ACC Commissioner John Swofford, who has been supportive of FSU's appeal of the vacating-wins penalty, doesn't believe that taking away victories is the correct punishment.

Teaff, who keeps a keen eye on the NCAA especially in terms of how its decisions affect coaches, sees the vacating of wins as a still open-ended matter.

"To my knowledge, the taking away of games is still very much under discussion with the committee for the NCAA that handles penalties for infractions," he said.

The issue brought an unexpected voice to the conversation two weeks ago when Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum weighed in on a lawsuit between 27 state media organizations and the NCAA over access to public records.

Joe Jacquot, the McCollum's chief of staff, said the Attorney General's primary interest in the lawsuit was protecting Florida's open-records laws. But Jacquot said McCollum had other reasons for filing briefs in the case.

"Secondarily, he knew what was going on in terms of the NCAA looking at pulling wins from Bobby Bowden and he wanted there to be a fair determination," Jacquot said. "And when you don't have transparency, when you don't have these matters out in the public, you know you really risk an unfair process. Secondarily, he did this for FSU, for its fans, for Coach Bowden and to make sure that he's treated in a proper way."

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