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Old 05-29-2003, 04:44 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Naperville IL
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Problems in college football

Maybe it isn't too much media attention, maybe its too much money involved...

Cloud hangs over Florida State football
Thu May 29, 7:20 AM ET Add Sports - USA TODAY to My Yahoo!


ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- The sounds from Bobby Bowden are so joyous one can't help but wonder whether there's a cloud of laughing gas drifting by. A crackling, down-home ''Hah, hah, hah'' that bares the Alabama roots of Florida State's football coach reverberates in every ear as Bowden poses with members of the Seminole Club of Clay County. He is pressing the flesh double time, initiating hearty handshakes before and after each photo.

''How y'all doing?'' is his shout of welcome as Bowden slides an arm around a middle-aged woman's middle and gets a response of, ''Oh, I like that.'' A male booster exits the experience pumping his fist, looking ready to give the ''I'm going to Disney World'' proclamation. A woman who breaks the rules by asking for an autograph is told, ''Oh, I'll sign it, for you.''

Despite the cheery atmosphere at this annual stop on Bowden's statewide goodwill tour, times are not quite as swell for Florida State football as Bowden's beaming face indicates.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Friday in Tallahassee in the misdemeanor gambling trial of former Seminoles quarterback Adrian McPherson, who was dismissed from the team in November. That trial is certain to dig out all the dirty linen from the hamper of a 9-5 2002 season that was considered calamitous by FSU standards.

Besides being criticized for not investigating more thoroughly allegations McPherson was gambling on sports events, FSU has had to weather two felony accusations against him. McPherson, 20, will go to trial this summer on charges of stealing a blank check and receiving stolen goods after the check was cashed.

Friday also was supposed to be when the MGT of America consulting firm presented the FSU board of trustees with a review, ordered by new university President T.K. Wetherell, on Seminoles athletic department procedures.

But that potentially unsettling convergence of events has been delayed, because of scheduling conflicts, until June 13.

It's one of several reviews of FSU departments Wetherell ordered when he became president. This one was assigned to an outside company to avoid any appearance of conflict because Bowden was an FSU assistant and Wetherell's position coach when the president was a receiver in the 1960s.

Bowden allows no questions about McPherson. Last week, on a golf course, Bowden was handed a subpoena to testify at the trial. Others destined for the witness stand: athletics director Dave Hart, quarterbacks coach Daryl Dickey and associate AD for compliance and legal affairs Robert Minnix.

Bowden all but shrugs at the mention of the review. ''You know, if we had done anything wrong, I'd be scared to death. . . . I think you've seen what you've seen. I think what's happened has happened. If there's any more out there, I don't know what it is.''

Bowden says he has no problem with the review. ''When you've had some of the criticism we've had and some of the press, it's probably not a bad idea to do it.''

As for whether any concrete changes will come from the review, Bowden gives what, for him, is a rare, one-word reply: ''No.''

This season that terser Bowden is likely to be more common. He plans to do fewer interviews and will severely limit the media's locker room access for the first time in his 28 seasons as head coach.

''You had a hard time finding me, didn't you?'' he says. ''I haven't been as cooperative lately because we've been upset with the press. I've been dodging them lately.''

To illustrate his media complaint, Bowden says, ''We were in Tampa and I'm reading the paper, and I look down at this little bitty type where it says a player at another school got arrested for something. If that had happened at Florida State, it would have made headlines all over the country.''

Referring to FSU's unmatched, 14-season run from 1987-2000 of finishing fifth or better in the national rankings, Bowden says, ''We've really created a monster. . . . To me, it comes with the territory. That's just the way it is.''

Stepping to the booster banquet podium, Bowden repeats that it's the media bringing down FSU.

With Wetherell sitting next to him, Bowden tells the crowd of 250, ''Every now and then I'll get a call from a law enforcement group about one of my boys. . . . I'll say (to Wetherell), 'T.K., remember back in '65? Some of the problems these kids get into, they ain't no different from what you all did. It's just that now everything is on the front page.' ''

Hard times, hard time

Aside from the media, the other rogue of note for FSU football has been Willie Meggs, Leon County state attorney. Meggs has won election to his post five times and served 19 years on a platform of taking a hard line on crime.

For FSU football, that has meant seeing a felony charge (later reduced to a misdemeanor) entered against Peter Warrick in 1999 when he and teammate Laveranues Coles were accused of arranging to pay $21.40 for about $400 worth of designer clothes. It also has meant the investigative report on McPherson's gambling allegations ran 800 pages.

Two years ago, in a similar case in Gainesville involving Florida basketball player Teddy Dupay, the report was far slimmer: 42 pages.

''One of the things I feel you have to do as a law enforcement officer, which is what I consider myself, is treat everybody the same way,'' says Meggs, who has ''never had any direct pressure one way or the other'' from Florida State. ''We probably ought to treat (FSU football players) different. To whom much is given, much is expected. We ought to give them more time.''

But Meggs, an FSU law school graduate, adds, ''I'm not prepared to say the Florida State football program is going to the devil. . . . If you listed all the 19-year-old people in Leon County, I would imagine that percentage of them that get in trouble would be about the same as the FSU football team.''

Because McPherson faces only a second-degree misdemeanor charge on the gambling allegations, Meggs says the case is of little concern to his office. His office initially offered not to seek jail time if McPherson didn't contest the gambling charge. But Grady Irvin Jr., McPherson's attorney, says a not-guilty verdict is probably the only hope his client has for returning to college football at another school.

If McPherson is found guilty, the state attorney will seek jail time, with 60 days the maximum. Adding intrigue is that the case will be prosecuted by assistant state attorney Georgia Cappleman, the daughter of former FSU quarterback Bill Cappleman.

For the record

McPherson's gambling case likely will put FSU through the wringer again on what the school knew and when it knew it. In pretrial depositions, FSU's Minnix testified the school had heard rumors before the 2002 season. Minnix has been criticized in the media for not taking notes in early interviews, including with McPherson.

''It was mostly, 'I don't know,' '' says Minnix, who came to FSU in 1995 after 20 years as a director of enforcement for the NCAA (news - web sites). ''How do you write that down?

''I know there have been some indications that we tried to hide information. I don't know why we would do that. The athletic director knew, the university president knew, the NCAA knew'' about the McPherson rumors. But in his deposition, Minnix said, ''I understand to write that down at that stage it . . . would subject those documents to the Open Records Act of the State of Florida.''

In FSU's defense, Minnix points out that within hours of arriving on campus as a freshman, McPherson went through counseling sessions that included gambling education. Minnix adds that FSU has held mandatory symposiums on gambling and McPherson attended.

Bill Saum, the NCAA director of agent and gambling activities, lists FSU among about a half-dozen universities that have been particularly aggressive on gambling prevention. ''Those folks went above and beyond, in terms of getting the whole campus involved,'' he says.

Bowden says he fully hopes to finish out a contract that runs through 2007. But some question if the strain from the McPherson case, and the charges against Bowden's son in a securities fraud conspiracy, will take a toll. Steve Bowden pleaded guilty in a scheme prosecutors said swindled $10 million from investors -- including $1.6 million from his father.

''With all the things happening, including the situation with his son, that's devastating stuff,'' ESPN analyst and former FSU player/assistant coach Lee Corso says. ''I always thought Bowden would stick around to coach for one more win than Joe Paterno, but now I don't know. . . . This has to be, public relations-wise, the worst offseason in Florida State football history.''

As Bowden works through it, it's clear he'll have nothing less than the full support of his school president and former player. ''We're blessed to have Bobby Bowden,'' Wetherell says. ''He is an institution. In my day it was Bear Bryant. Today it's Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden. . . . I'm probably gone before he is. I ain't got a win yet.''

Wonder if Bobby Knight can get a former player to be his boss?
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Sir Winston Churchill

"A sick thought can devour the body's flesh more than fever or consumption." - Guy de Maupassant
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