Great job, Florida State officials. For three months, you've allowed everyone to assume you had something to hide. Sixty-one of your athletes committed academic fraud, and you reported that to the NCAA in February. The NCAA did its own snooping and sent you a notice of allegations in June.
For the next three months, you steadfastly refused to comply with Florida's open records law and release the NOA. You made it seem as if the case involved something more sinister than what it was; a tutor instructed one athlete -- the eventual whistle-blower -- to take a quiz for another athlete in a joke of an online music appreciation class, and the initial tip touched off an investigation that revealed an advisor had instructed a tutor to give answers to athletes in that class. You allowed media outlets to speculate about what you might be hiding, and certainly that speculation reached recruits and their parents.
In the 226 pages of documents released Friday morning, the only thing remotely resembling a bombshell is allegation No. 3 in the NOA. The NCAA alleges that academic advisor Hilliard Goldsmith instructed a tutor -- whose name was redacted -- to provide answers to exam questions and then told at least six athletes to be present at a time when Goldsmith knew the tutor also would be present. In the context of the entire investigation, this is small potatoes. For the most part, the 10-page summary you released Friday morning was spot on; the NCAA didn't find much beyond what you already self-reported.
So why, pray tell, did you violate state law to keep the NOA a secret? Wouldn't it have been simpler to just release it, which would have made this a non-story in June instead of allowing damaging speculation to fester for three months? Do you think the coaches at Florida and Miami weren't pumping recruits' heads full of ideas about a giant NCAA sledgehammer poised to smash FSU's football program to pieces?
Here's what FSU could have told everyone in June, according to the summary released this morning.
• The fraud case involved 61 athletes (including 25 football players), 22 who came forward immediately and 39 snared by a computer investigation of course records who didn't come forward until after the NCAA agreed to handle the cases as a collective instead of individually.
• All 61 athletes were immediately declared ineligible by FSU and subsequently suspended for 30 percent of their seasons. That explains why almost two dozen football players missed the Music City Bowl and why 11 current scholarship players are sitting out FSU's first three games. It also explains why the Seminoles scheduled Western Carolina and Tennessee-Chattanooga to open the season. They couldn't do anything about the Sept. 20 Wake Forest game.
• FSU voided the grades of all athletes who took the course and required them to retake the course under more strict guidelines. FSU also reorganized its academic support program for athletes.
• As a penalty, FSU has recommended a loss of 10.18 scholarships in 10 sports, including five in football (two this year and three next year). That .07 of a baseball scholarship could really hurt. The NCAA may accept that recommendation, or it may cut additional scholarships.
• The NCAA will hold a hearing on the matter on Oct. 18 and will determine a penalty after the hearing.
Now that didn't hurt so bad, did it? It would have been much easier -- and wiser -- to release that information in June and squash all the rumors.