Archive for Saturday, September 12, 2009

FSU handling of NCAA troubling

September 12, 2009

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Can hardly wait until the media finally get to see the official transcripts of Florida State University’s appeal of the NCAA penalties that resulted from the school’s infamous academic cheating scandal.

Just guessing, but I’m thinking somewhere in the transcripts will be this exchange between FSU President T.K. Wetherell and members of the NCAA Committee on Infractions:

Wetherell: “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”

NCAA committee members in singsong unison: “We’re rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of us and sticks to you!”

Seriously, isn’t this getting embarrassing?

Wetherell is supposed to be helping legendary football coach Bobby Bowden get back up to 14 victories that the NCAA says FSU must vacate as a result of the academic transgressions. Bowden, of course, is two victories behind Joe Paterno in the race to see which legend will become major college football’s all-time winningest coach. But if Wetherell keeps hurling barbs at NCAA investigators and making them mad, Bowden may soon end up in a career victory battle with another Big Ten coach — Ron Zook.

Wetherell is the president of an institution of higher learning and should be trying to make this humiliating academic fraud scandal go away. Instead, he keeps drawing national attention to it.

This is getting to be like the old Groundhog Day movie. Every day, every year, it’s the same scenario. Yet another football season has started and here we are once again discussing FSU’s dirty laundry. We should be focusing on the positive development of Christian Ponder as a quarterback, but instead we’re still talking about the latest development in FSU’s cheating case.

The latest episode came on national TV Monday night before FSU’s season-opening game against rival Miami. Wetherell, during a pregame interview with ESPN, accused the NCAA of using unscrupulous “bait and switch” tactics in its investigation and said the organization reneged on an agreement with FSU. The NCAA, which hardly ever makes public comments on pending cases, issued a statement and said Wetherell’s claims are simply “not true.”

A couple of years ago, I commended Wetherell for aggressively leading the charge and beating the NCAA in FSU’s fight to keep its American-Indian nickname. His cocky, flamboyant style was refreshing then. Now it’s totally out of place.

This isn’t about a school mascot; it’s about a university’s entire academic reputation. And that means Wetherell should stop acting like Chief Osceola going to battle with a flaming spear and start acting like a university president who is judiciously fighting to preserve his institution’s intellectual integrity.

The thing is, Wetherell is absolutely right in what he’s trying to do; he’s just going about it all wrong. He should be trying to get back Bowden’s victories, but he should be working quietly behind the scenes, not loudly in front of ESPN cameras. He should be doing it with decorum and diplomacy, not with grandstanding and name-calling. He should be doing it by reasoning with NCAA committee members, not ridiculing them.

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