June 18, 2009
Records can be strange beasts. Roger Maris had to put an asterisk by his 61 home runs; Barry Bonds' colossal season and career totals may not even stay in the books by the time the "Steroid Era" is finally exhausted and put out of its misery. In college football, overtime statistics count, but before 2002, bowl game statistics didn't. (Which makes Barry Sanders' record 2,628-yard, 37-touchdown season for Oklahoma State in 1988 all the more mind-boggling, because that doesn't include Sanders' 222-yard, five-touchdown effort in the Holiday Bowl.) Vince Young could not have gone down as the first quarterback to run for 1,000 yards and pass for 3,000 in the same season if he'd done it in 2000 instead of 2005, when his monster performance in the Rose Bowl pushed both numbers past the benchmarks. The actual thing and the official thing do not always correspond.
So it is now in Bobby Bowden's chase for the career wins record, which enters the 2009 season -- in all likelihood either his last or next-to-last season at Florida State -- one game behind Joe Paterno in actual wins: Bowden has 382 to JoePa's 383. But even if FSU wins enough games to pass Joe for that mark while Bowden is still boss, the official win total is looking more and more like it's all Paterno's to lose:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP)—The NCAA infractions committee intends to uphold sanctions against Florida State that would take away wins in 10 sports, including as many as 14 by football coach Bobby Bowden.
Bowden, who is preparing for his 34th season at Florida State, would have little chance to stay abreast of Penn State’s Joe Paterno in their competition to finish as major college football’s winningest coach if the penalty sticks.
Speaking of asterisks, the one that goes by the headline, "NCAA rejects Florida State's appeal to lift sanctions," is this: FSU has one more appeal left, to the Association's Infractions Appeals Committee, which makes the final call on whether those victories stay or go. Bobby can, theoretically, still get those Ws back. (Though with the NCAA's leisurely timetable, it could be well into the season, or even after, before anyone knows either way.)
This round of appeals did seem like FSU's best chance of keeping those wins -- vacated due to players later deemed ineligible thanks to a "widespread academic fraud" case involving dozens of athletes in multiple sports accused of cheating in an online music course in 2006 and 2007 -- which must make it all the more disheartening to the 'Noles to get a report back that describes the violations as "serious and intentional" and the conduct of unnamed FSU staffers as "reprehensible." That's not the kind of language that generally leads an appeal board to reverse course.