Monday, March 09, 2009

Punishment levied in Florida State cheating scandal

I swore I had blogged about the Florida State cheating scandal already, but I can't seem to find it. Must be one of those posts that I did in my head and never transferred to the blog. [There are so many of those it seems.]
Anyway the scandal at Florida State was one of the biggest (known) cases of academic cheating (within an athletic department) to date. It involved 61 student-athletes in 10 sports and included cheating on an online exam, getting answers from tutors and professors on exams, and plagiarized (written by others) papers.
So the punishment, as determined by the NCAA: 4-year probation; adjustment to the win-loss records; and loss of grants-in-aid.
In my humble opinion, this is nothing. Nothing! It's so nothing that Florida State imposed further sanctions on itself. For example, the NCAA mandated the loss of one scholarship in football over the next three years (that's one out of 85!); Florida State imposed another five--again over three years (in other words they won't be down 6 scholarships for the next three years--they will be spread out and the university gets to decide how).
It seems the biggest concern is the forfeiture of games. Florida State is considering appealing this particular NCAA sanction. It already suspended players who were confirmed cheaters during the 2007 and 2008 season. Thus it feels that those athletes have already done their time so to speak--plus they didn't know the athletes were cheating at the time. Or so they say. Here's the thing--someone knew. Probably multiple someones knew. This is the one sanction that somewhat attacks the culture of the Florida State athletic department that perpetuated 61 cheating student-athletes and the adults that aided and abetted.
The NCAA argues that once cheating takes place, that student-athlete automatically becomes ineligible. Because they athlete knew about it--at the very least. In a program that valued academic honesty and academic success there would not be such rampant cheating.
It seems the forfeiture is really about how unfair it would be for football coach Bobby Bowden who is only one win behind Penn State's Joe Paterno in terms of career wins. Such thinking absolves Bowden from all responsibility regarding the academic status of his players.
I doubt that the sanctions will truly challenge the culture in which (it seems) coaches, administrators, professors, and professional support staff all helped students cheat in order to keep them eligible to play sports. There didn't seem to be a big house cleaning in the wake of this event. I believe some from academic support services lost their jobs, but you have to wonder to whom they were answering. In other words, what pressures were being placed on them to basically take complete responsibility for their tutees' academic success. This is not to suggest that they should not be punished--but there should be some investigation into whom they may be taking the wrap for!

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