NCAA must find another way on Bowden case



Florence, Ala.—Bobby Bowden has been a college football coach for 55 years. In that time his various football programs have never been hauled before the NCAA for cheating. Sure, some of his players have gotten into trouble with the law and that’s not good.  Yes, there have been various violations that every program goes through. That has happened to a lot of coaches. It comes with the territory.

But everybody involved in college football knows there is a difference between breaking the rules and cheating to gain a competitive advantage. No one has ever said publicly that Bowden bought players or gave them something of value to come to Tallahassee or Morgantown, or Howard College (now Samford) or South Georgia Junior College, where it all started for him.

That is why Bowden is troubled by the possibility that an NCAA Appeals Committee may eventually rule that 14 of his 382 career victories, second only to Penn State’s Joe Paterno at 383, will be “vacated” as punishment for an academic cheating scandal that involved 61 athletes (25 of them football players) at Florida State. The penalty as been appealed but if it stands, Paterno will win the race by default.

I had a chance to spend a couple of hours with Bobby Bowden and his sons Terry, Tommy, and Jeff on Tuesday. They had all come to Florence to help Terry, the new head coach at North Alabama, with his fund raising efforts for the football program.

Until now, Bobby Bowden has been low key about this whole thing. His attitude has been “what happens, happens.” But now, as his Hall of Fame career draws to a close, this matter has clearly disturbed his sense of what is right and wrong and, ultimately, fair to him and to Florida State.

“I’ve been coaching for 55 years and never been accused of cheating,” said Bowden. “And now we’re going to get punished like this for something we knew nothing about? And when we did find out about it we turned ourselves in. We did everything we were supposed to do. But somehow this just does not seem fair.”

The NCAA Committee on Infractions admits that there is no evidence that Bowden or any of his coaches were involved, had knowledge of, or condoned the process that allowed these students to cheat on an on-line course. Florida State discovered the problem, turned itself in, and immediately suspended all athletes involved. Those suspensions in football were for as many as four games.

 The infractions committee, thinking it was giving a lesser punishment than scholarship reductions, called for the games involving the athletes to be vacated, which means that they will be stricken from the record as if they were never played. But what the committee has done, perhaps unknowingly, is inject itself into the race to determine Division I-A football’s all-time winner.

Here is my advice to the NCAA: Find another way on this case.

What happened at Florida State should have never happened. It was sloppy. Florida State should be punished in some fashion. No argument here. But dock the school some scholarships. Fine them. Ban them from TV (fat chance).

The fact is you have no evidence that Bowden or his coaches were involved or had knowledge of it. If you did, I’ve got no problem with this punishment. So find another way to punish the school without getting into the Bowden-Paterno race and putting a permanent asterisk by Bowden’s name.

Just the other day Paterno said that he hopes the NCAA would reconsider its position and allow Bowden to keep the wins. Paterno is a competitor. He doesn’t want to win like that. He wants to beat Bowden fair and square.

“All of Bobby Bowden’s players and all of Joe Paterno’s players want the same thing,” said Terry Bowden. “They want to tell their children and their grandchildren that they played for the guy who won more games than anybody. And that race should be decided on the field.”

Bobby Bowden told me that he hopes the issue will be resolved in Florida State favor “but I won’t slit my wrists if it doesn’t.” He also insisted to me that this decision will not have an impact on when he eventually retires. He said he has an idea when that will be but won’t discuss it “because then people will start counting down the days. I don’t want that.”

Here is my bottom line: The NCAA, however well-intentioned, is inserting itself into a piece of college football history. That is not a proper place for them to be. Punish Florida State appropriately. Just find another way to do it.

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180 comments Add your comment

Tide Rising

July 15th, 2009
5:26 pm

Dadgummit! I just wanted to say that!


At least they only took away 21 wins from Bama and didn’t mess with our 4 million win streak over UGA


July 15th, 2009
5:29 pm

…and Bama gets to claim all 12 National Titles


July 15th, 2009
5:31 pm

Surprise, surprise, surprise… Tony “Mr. College Football” Barnhart, a man whose career DEPENDS on access to the Big Dogs of College Football, comes out in favor of the “haves” once again after never having been seen in defense of the “have nots”.

Knock me over with a feather.

Whadda ya think, Tony? Maybe they should just take Diddy’s pablum away for a couple of days to punish him?


July 15th, 2009
5:31 pm

Barnhart, you’re getting sloppy.

You’re getting too tied in to the old school guys to see what’s right and what’s wrong. Bowden’s been cheating all his career, and finally, at the very end…it finally catches up to him and his long time admirers want to start crying foul. He deserves every slap he and his out of control program get!

You need to get back to center an focus again Tony. C’mon man!!


July 15th, 2009
5:47 pm

Amazing how such a non-issue has become a huge issue. The race for most victories pretty much ended the day JoePa was given a 3-year contract extension. There’s no way FSU is going to dish out $5 million to Jimbo Fisher just so Bobby can stick around. Unless JoePa dies, the record is his. It’s no longer a question on JoePa having the most Div-1 victories, but how many he’ll end up with. Bobby is no longer a threat, with or without his 14 tarnished victories. He’ll be gone after this year. Instead, I’m hoping JoePa is around long enough to get win 409 and beat out Eddie Robinson.


July 15th, 2009
5:59 pm

Here is the deal—it does involve Bobby Bowden, a fine man and a class act and not Steve “Mr. Pompous” Spurrier or Urban “Cry-Baby” Myer. Yep, Florida you win National Titles but you just can’t win a battle of class. Ever.

Tide Rising

July 15th, 2009
6:01 pm


Aint you heard. Instead of just 12 national championships we went back again, felt like we got jobbed a few times, found a few games were we would have won if this and that woulda happened, so now we’ve retroactively awarded ourselves another 42 titles. The count now stands at 54.


July 15th, 2009
6:10 pm

well actually GATOR, those “40 some wins from a lower division school”, aren’t really from a lower division, because at the time there was no separation of divisions 1a and 1aa until 1973. I really wish people would get there facts straight. Things is, Bowden’s wins at samford were, at the time, d1 wins. The only classification at the time were college and university level, and not all the 32 victories can even be placed in the lower level of that classification. It’s funny how people will attack the smallest minute detail from the past and try somehow to relate it to today. This simply can’t be put in todays terms, football has changes so much since then.


July 15th, 2009
6:25 pm

Name-calling is the crutch of an inferior mind.
You, sir, are a classy guy!


July 15th, 2009
8:25 pm

HOW many wins will coach Saban lose for His school cheating ? How many will He lose under a second loi and a second probation . Will He leave bama first when the heat gets closer?

John Holmes

July 15th, 2009
10:18 pm

All of you ostriches had better hold your breath as far as your own programs. It’s always hilarious to see how quickly comments about punishment change when YOU get hit.

John Holmes

July 15th, 2009
10:23 pm

THE only reason Paterno has started winning again is because they play one of the worst schedules in the nation. Check it. Before they started doing that, their fans were trying to run him off. And once again how silly it looks for those very same people to come out and act like they were behind Paterno all the way. They were behind him alright….with a bulldozer.


July 15th, 2009
10:46 pm

If you get caught pay the penalty and don’t cry about it.Forfeiture of games should be part of the penalty.GT played academically ineligable players and got caught and vacated games.however they cried and had them reinstated which in my opinion is BS.You can’t tell me it was’nt known before hand.Trying to hide it should stiffen the penalty.


July 15th, 2009
11:33 pm

Here is the bottom line folks…Bobby Bowdens tolerant attitude of “boys will be boys” and not putting his foot down and not re-gaining control of the program finally caught up with him. This tolerance went on for a long time. Now ironically he gets “busted” for something he didn’t have knowledge or complete control of. But isn’t that the way it always goes? A guy robs banks for years and years and never gets caught then gets thrown in jail for tax evasion. Karma will always get you in the end and sadly for Bowden, this is the end.


July 15th, 2009
11:47 pm

Mr. Barnhart, you don’t want the government to be involved in the BCS controversy nor do you want the NCAA involved in the Florida State scandal. Somebody has to REGULATE the situation! Your “free market” approach to behavior leads to chaos. You implied that the lack of evidence of Bowden’s knowledge of this situation justifiably exonerates him of any wrongdoing. There is a larger question that must be asked is this: What evidence can Bowden provide that he did everything within his means to deter his players from this sort of situation? Continually advocating for those morons out there that have contributed to their own misfortunes detracts from YOUR credibility. Taking the stance that you have taken on this topic, it appears that your perspective is void of any ethical, moral, or philosophical fabric. Rather, your stance appears myopic, biased, prejudicial, and clearly absent of critical thinking. Grind the axe elsewhere!

Denver Dog

July 16th, 2009
1:14 am

I like Bobby bowden, but until they start punishing the coaces and AD’s it won’t matter. Put them out of a job and say no more. The only true example of what could happen is what happened at SMU, and thre it worked. Someone has to be accountable, wherther it si UGA Penn State, USC or any other major school. It is time to stop the nonsense

Too Easy

July 16th, 2009
8:05 am

Nothing new here since the first 10 comments. Let’s move on. Tony: I think you lost this one.

John Holmes

July 16th, 2009
2:12 pm

Not in my opinion and no, I’m not an FSU fan. I WOULD like to know what schools all of the hypocrites on here support.


July 16th, 2009
2:39 pm

I think the whole punishment scheme of the NCAA seems out of whack today. Losing scholarships is a pretty serious penalty, but I propose fining the athletic departments. College football is big business treat it as such. Fine them and then the NCAA can use the money to hire more investigators to ferret out the big violations (Reggie Bush and USC) and/or fund improved scholarship and insurance programs.

South Georgia Nole

July 16th, 2009
2:43 pm

As a ‘Nole fan I love Bobby Bowden and seeing the NCAA take victories away from the guy hurts, BUT having them take away scholarships would be even worse. Bobby not being #1 on the all time wins list is less of a punishment to the ‘Noles than being docked 5-7 scolarships and us having a harder time getting back to the top. I for one am glad that the NCAA is considering this “punishment”.

Football Encyclopedia

July 17th, 2009
8:00 am

31 wins at Howard College from 1959 to 1962 should not count for Saint Bobby Bowden anyway!
Joe Paterno never coached little league college football and Bowden should admit there is no comparison. Penn State is no Howard College ( now powerful Samford U.) —Reveal all the facts!


July 17th, 2009
2:50 pm

Here is the crux of the issue, Tony:

The minute those players cheated, they became ineligible per NCAA rules. Those ineligible players then played in games, making the results of those games null and void. It doesn’t matter whether those players were ineligible because of academics, getting paid by boosters, or taking banned substances. It also doesn’t matter if the coaches knew about it. By using ineligible players, they had a competitive advantage over teams who were playing by the rules.

Also, St. Bobby sings a different tune when it is his turn to get roasted by the NCAA. He sure had different thoughts about it back when he was on the other side of the ineligibility fence (1983):,3169571

Care to ask him about that?

steve merker

July 17th, 2009
5:24 pm

Your article is amusing in respect for not telling FSU’s and other Florida schools academic cheating and other serious offenses over the years. If you think Bowden or his staff did not know about his players
academic problems, then you have issues. The win losses will send a message to other schools. Bowden deserves to lose those wins.come on now,his players can not pass a music class.


July 23rd, 2009
11:50 am

Alabama “self reported” a violation and was given the 2nd worst penalty ever handed down by the NCAA so I don’t see that point as a reason not to hold Bowden responsible for something that did help him get more victories. If the crime added to his win total then take them away. My problem with the NCAA is why has USC not been help accountable in the Reggie Bush deal or Ohio State for a booster “loaning” a car to Maurice C? Why are some top schools help to higher standards while others are allowed to cruise on by?


November 27th, 2009
12:02 pm

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December 1st, 2009
7:34 pm

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December 3rd, 2009
9:36 am

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December 3rd, 2009
8:52 pm

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December 6th, 2009
7:33 pm

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December 14th, 2009
7:53 pm

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