Florida State: Unfair to punish Bowden

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State officials told the NCAA on Thursday it's unfair to penalize coach Bobby Bowden as part of the sanctions announced last month, resulting from an academic cheating scandal that involved dozens of athletes.

In a formal 28-page written appeal by a private attorney representing the school and dated April 23, the university said the penalty that included forfeits in football and nine other sports was too harsh.

"Even if this committee upholds the vacation penalty, it should not require the reconfiguration of the records of innocent head coaches," attorney William Williams wrote in the school's submission.

Earlier this month, the 79-year-old Bowden told ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach that he really wasn't too concerned about Florida State's appeal.

"Not enough that I worry about it," Bowden said. "You spend 55 years of your life coaching, you'd like to have accomplished something special for your grandchildren to remember."

Bowden has 382 career wins -- one fewer than Penn State's Joe Paterno, the all-time major college leader. Losing 14 wins would virtually ruin any chance Bowden has of catching Paterno.

"I'm not going to stay in it long enough to overcome it, especially with Joe staying in it," Bowden told Schlabach.

Bowden is under contract to coach at Florida State through the 2009 season. He has worked the past few seasons on a year-by-year contract. Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher has already been named his successor.

"I've got an idea [when I'll retire], but things can happen," Bowden told Schlabach. "I wouldn't say because people will start counting down the days. Right now, I still enjoy it and want to stay in it. But we need to be successful. We made improvement and got back in the fight, but I'm still hoping we can get the job done."

Bowden was out of town Thursday on his annual booster tour and unavailable to comment on the school's formal appeal.

Williams said it was also unfair to vacate individual records by athletes not involved in the academic misconduct.

Although the NCAA told Florida State it should vacate all team and individual records for contests where the ineligible athletes competed, opponents would not benefit or be able to claim victory.

The NCAA said Florida State would have to surrender victories in games where ineligible student-athletes participated in the fall of 2006 and 2007 and spring of 2007.

The cheating occurred mainly through online testing for a single music history course in the fall of 2006 and the spring and summer semesters of 2007. It included staffers helping students on the test and in one case asking one athlete to take it for another.

The school, however, accepted the loss of scholarships in 10 sports and a four-year probation the NCAA announced March 6.

Bowden also told Schlabach that he doesn't think the football team should be penalized because the university discovered the alleged cheating, corrected the problem and self-reported to the NCAA.

"It was the system more than anything," Bowden said. "There's just so many kids who didn't need help and didn't want help, but somebody was giving it. We suspended 25 guys for four ballgames and lost two of them. They all got [grades of] F's. Cheating to me should be a university problem. We discovered it. They didn't discover it. If they make us forfeit these games, doesn't that mean any time someone cheats a team is going to have to forfeit games? It seems to me that would open a can of worms."

Mark Schlabach is a college football writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.