Monday, December 14, 2009


Usually on Monday's I try not to post anything.  JJ's 10 Things are so good I don't like to muck up the site with anything else for a couple days. 

However this Monday is different.  After I watched the entire ESPN "Outside The Lines" segment on Sunday concerning FSU and it's academic scandal from a few months ago I feel compelled to post a few links on behalf of Seminole Nation so that both sides of the story get told.  Please bear with me as this post will contain tons of information.

I remember sometime within the first week I met Coach Johnson he told me about his disdain for everything ESPN and the arrogance with which he felt they reported most of their news with; after Sunday I can see now where Coach was coming from. 

ESPN's entire report was extremely one-sided and never once attempted to illustrate the positives of FSU's Athletic Department.   I am going to paste a letter from the Florida State Athletics Director Randy Spetman that was released in anticipation of the OTL segment.  I am also going to post some thoughts that I have found from other FSU supporters that sum up pretty well just how I feel about the entire situation.  Please take the time to read all that I post as I feel fairly confident that a different view of FSU's athletics and academics will emerge, as well as a different view of the folks featured in the ESPN's "Outside The Lines" segment.

1 - AD Spetman's letter to Seminole Nation as well as an email correspondence he had with ESPN about the piece.

Dear Seminole fan,
I want to let you know about an upcoming ESPN "Outside the Lines" television program that we know will portray the academic profile of student-athletes and the admissions and retention process at The Florida State University in a negative way. The promotions for this program already have shown that it contains false information.

Therefore, I and other top administrators have called and e-mailed Vince Doria, vice president of News at ESPN who has oversight of "Outside the Lines," to report our concerns and urge the network not to air this program. That e-mail follows, and we encourage you to read it.

We also have chosen not to grant the producer of this program interviews that were requested of Florida State University President T.K. Wetherell and football Head Coach Bobby Bowden, and we wanted you to know why.

We want you to understand we are very limited in how we can respond to this type of editorial reporting. Federal law prohibits the university from divulging academic information about individual students, even if it would be positive to us. The university also is being sued by one of the sources for this "Outside the Lines" story.

An accurate view of student-athletes' admission and retention at Florida State would reflect that the university admits hundreds of student-athletes who are talented in the classroom as well as in their sport. For example, student-athletes have been three of the last four Rhodes Scholars finalists, and two of them were recipients. Along with other public universities in the state, Florida State does admit some student-athletes with documented learning disabilities. Under federal and state law, and Florida Board of Governors policy, all students with learning disabilities as documented by licensed professionals are provided with appropriate academic accommodations.

According to our Admissions Office, Florida State ordinarily enrolls more than 6,000 "first time in college" students each year, including about 125 who will compete in sports. Typically, such as in 2009, just over 93% of incoming students are admitted through our standard processes.  Another 5.9%  are admitted because they are just below our cutoff scores for standard admission and have special talents or an academic record indicating a high probability of success. The categories for such students admitted in 2009 were: 234 strong academic record, 62 special talent in the arts, 43 in athletics and 14 on appeal.

There is another admission option that requires the support of the university admission committee (consisting of a faculty majority) and involves an appeal to the committee and, if the committee admits the student, an academic plan must be approved by both the student and the admissions committee.

We think it is important to note that of the 41 students admitted through the committee admissions process in 2009, only 17 were student-athletes, who competed in various sports.

We take great pride in the academic performance of our student-athletes, as evidenced by these achievements in 2008-09:


For more information about student-athletes at Florida State, email:

Athletic Director Randy Spetman


Date: Fri, 11 Dec 2009 14:34:22 -0500
From: Franklin Murphy
Subject: Conference Call Regarding Upcoming OTL Program

TO:  Vince Doria, Vice President of News, ESPN

RE:  Upcoming Outside the Lines Program on Florida State University

As we urged you in our conference call this morning, we hope you will reconsider airing the "Outside the Lines" program ESPN is promoting as "The Story Behind the Florida State Academics Scandal" that is scheduled to debut Sunday, Dec. 13. 2009 because your promotions for this program have already shown that it contains false statements.

As Betty Steffens, Florida State University's general counsel, and I discussed with you, the promotional video clip for this program and the written promotion posted at the ESPN "Outside the Lines" Web site both contain inaccurate information that is harmful to Florida State University, and the program you are about to air is not a full, fair and balanced account of academic admission or retention of student-athletes at Florida State University.

Here is a recap of the points we made in our conversation with you:

The promotional clip for this "Outside the Lines" piece features Brenda Monk, a former employee of the university who resigned and is suing the university and who is appealing a finding by the NCAA that she was guilty of academic fraud and unethical conduct.

What that promotion piece says about Florida State University admitting "at least one student that had a documented IQ of 60" is absolutely false. And any cited corroboration for this statement is also false.  In admissions, we focus on the student's history of academic performance in classes, the rigor of those classes and test scores.

Tom Farrey, the reporter for this promotional piece, also takes that false statement that the university admitted "at least one student that had a documented IQ of 60" and extrapolates it to more Florida State student-athletes by asking Brenda Monk:  "What did you think when you saw athletes with a 60 IQ being admitted to a school where most of the kids were honor students in high school?"   Brenda Monk answers:  "We have set the student up to failŠ" (Context is vitally important in journalism. The reporter is broadcasting comments from a disgruntled, former employee who is now suing the university. She makes accusations involving a student, but the reporter is broadening this to taint the entire athletics program - which is patently unfair to our more than 500 student-athletes who perform very well in the classroom).

The written promotional piece for the upcoming "Outside the Lines" program also says:  "A central figure in the academic fraud scandal at Florida State University attributes the university's problems to the caliber of students that longtime coach Bobby Bowden brought to Tallahassee in an effort to revive his program, the measures used to keep some of those students eligible, and the quality of the educations they received." This statement is also false. Head Football Coach Bobby Bowden has nothing to do with academic admission of any students. We also pointed out that the NCAA's own investigation of the Florida State case found that no coaches were involved in any way with academic impropriety. 

When your promotional piece refers to "the measures used to keep some of those students eligible," it is, again, way off base. Under state and federal law, Florida State, just like other state universities in Florida, offers proper accommodations for the few student-athletes who are accepted with documented learning disabilities. The university does not offer a disproportionate number of waivers for its student-athletes, as your reporter seems to want to report.

Our administrators worked with the "Outside the Lines" reporter, Tom Farrey, and helped him as much as we could with his story without violating federal laws protecting students' privacy rights.  We reminded Mr. Farrey of those constraints and how they strictly prohibit us from releasing information about students in such small groups that the identity of the individual student would be obvious. He asked us to do that and apparently would not accept that answer and tried to get numerous other administrators, who also had expertise in student admissions, to give him this information.  They could not and did not do so.

Finally, Mr. Farrey had asked us for interviews with Coach Bowden and Florida State President T.K. Wetherell, but we turned down those interviews.  I told Mr. Farrey that neither Coach Bowden nor President Wetherell is an expert in admissions policies and procedures.  By design to comply with federal law, the admissions and retention administrators are the experts and have access to student records and are fully knowledgeable about all the nuances of those programs -- and not President Wetherell or Coach Bowden. 

Also, in our conversation this morning you and, by follow-up email, the "Outside the Lines" staff again offered to interview Coach Bowden or President Wetherell.  Even if this would give us an opportunity to address false accusations, why would anyone trust the context of your offer -- verbatim as follows?:

Date: Fri, 11 Dec 2009 11:11:31 -0500
From: "Phillips, Jamila D."

Subject: ESPN Interview Request For TK Wetherall (Sunday 12/13)


Hope all is well.  I wanted to place an interview request for TK Wetherall on ESPN's Outside The Lines show on Sunday 12/13 at 9am ET. We are going to have a feature documenting the way by which FSU admits substandard students into the school to play sports. We will discuss how much the FSU situation is widespread and doesn't the win at all costs mentality compromise academics. I know Reporter Tom Farrey reached out regarding Mr. Wetherall but I just wanted to extend the offer again.

Ideally we would like to do this interview on camera. Bob Ley is hosting.

Thanks in advance for your assistance and looking forward to hearing from you.

Jamila Phillips
ESPN Talent Producer

(NOTE: Same request was emailed to Coach Bowden via FSU Athletics Department staff)

2 - is a blog post on Nolesports.Com by Corey Clark.  He rambles a bit here but his points are still valid.  

3 - I would also like to post a few points and a small anecdote about Fred Rouse, the player that ESPN hung their hat on as having some great insight.  

- Rouse only went to FSU for one semester and was kicked out after failing multiple drug tests and convicted of theft from his own roommate.  This has caused Rouse to transfer to a total of 4 schools because of attitude, drug, and criminal problems.  I'm not sure a prosecutor would put Rouse on the stand for fear of ruining his case because of the questionable character of the young man.

- I know personally a young lady that had a "relationship" with Rouse during his time at FSU and after he left the team.  He proceeded to go to UTEP after being released from FSU and was kicked off of the team for too many violations, both reported and unreported, to name.

- While I was a referee with the Big Bend Football Officials Association (The officiating association that handles many High School's in the Tallahasee area) I was assigned to work a game at Lincoln High School, Fred Rouse's alma mater, during Rouse's senior year.  Since this was early in my officiating career I was simply working the chains, however working the chains also afforded me the opportunity to talk with the Side Judge quite a bit even if I wasn't always in on all the Referee's huddles and meetings.

Shortly after the coin toss was completed the Side Judge walked back over to the chain gang just shaking his head with a bit of a shocked look on his face.  When I asked him what was the matter he said "That Rouse kid is an asshole".  I asked him to explain what happened.  He said that Rouse was the captain for Lincoln High School and thus went to midfield to call the toss for Lincoln.  When the Referee asked him whether his call was heads or tails, Rouse's response was "It is whatever the fuck I say it is, bitch".

Clearly ESPN went to a very reputable and upstanding young man to help them make their case against FSU.

4 - This exact issue was the focus of an investigation by Atlanta's own AJC just about a year ago.  This is a very interesting read and wasn't one I caught when it was originally done, included in that article is an interesting quote:   
"The biggest gap [in SAT scores] between football players and students as a whole occurred at the University of Florida, where players scored 346 points lower than the school’s overall student body. That’s larger than the difference in scores between typical students at the University of Georgia and Harvard University."
I don't want this to seem like I'm dragging others into the mud with me.  I'm simply doing what I wish ESPN would have done for more than 15 seconds on Sunday: admitting that it's much more of a widespread problem than simply FSU (they literally only gave it 15 seconds at the end of the segment while talking with a professor from Ohio University who said that it was a national problem).

5 - some points I've pulled from various sources (mainly comment sections of other blogs talking about the ESPN Segment) that I find very interesting.

- "ESPN is the one who should be embarrassed of the fact that they put their name behind a report that was clearly biased and is based on unreliable sources. Yes, the academic scandal happened and it is not something the school should be proud of, but I guarantee the whole deal about "working with the student" happens everywhere. Proof? Tim Tebow scored an 890 on the SAT and is regarded as an Academic All American.  Upset about the "social sciences" degree at FSU? try tebow's "family, youth and community sciences".  It's the exact same degree, just with a different name! HYPOCRISY. "

- "Let's see. It's shocking, shocking I tell you that a one-sided documentary against FSU would be authored by a graduate of rival University of Florida Gator Journalism school. What's this world coming to?"

That's right, the reporter of the story is a UF grad.  If you don't think that makes a difference then you obviously didn't go to school in the south.  You don't think an Auburn grad would jump at the chance to bury Alabama? Georgia Tech grad wouldn't want to embarrass UGA?  I know this played a factor in the timing of this piece as well as the lack of research and failing to find credible sources by ESPN with which to make their point).

- Interesting point about the timing of this story: 

"You need to understand the internet news economy to understand why ESPN is pushing this story now. Its all about 'google hits' and 'key word searches' and 'click throughs'... there has been a lot of news about Bowden's retirement lately, and thus FSU gets a lot of searches. As a result, lets issue more stories about FSU to get in peoples search results and ultimately get people reading 'our story'... "

- If you don't think ESPN is bias take a look at this great piece of work scheduled for next weekend for SEC Network, oops, I mean ESPN:

fsu_student (12/14/2009 at 2:55 PM)
Next time on outside the lines, a hard hitting investigative report entitled "Inside the SEC: How the conference is as close as it gets to the pros". seriously, look it up if you don't believe me 
yetimcclin (12/14/2009 at 3:14 PM)
Holy crap. FSU_student wasn't kidding. ESPN is officially a joke. 
- Interesting point here that I agree with:

"What chance does the kid with the 60 IQ have in life if he doesnt get to play football?  Why should the kid who scores 1300 on his SATs be the only one to have a chance? Can that player help bring in millions and millions to his school, can he catch a ball high across the middle with a 260 lb linebacker barrin down? How are these kids gonna make anything of themselfs when the school system has already failed them if they cant go to college on their athletic merit?"

Finally I'd just like to say that I believe what happened within the athletic department was wrong.  Clearly the athletic department felt the same way or they wouldn't have self-reported in order to clean house, which they summarily did shortly following the self-reporting.

Unfortunately if ESPN would have discussed all the items I've posted here (Randy Spetman's letter, the background of Brenda Monk and Fred Rouse, the AJC Investigation, the house-cleaning conducted by FSU's athletic department) it clearly would have hurt the effectiveness of ESPN's report.

It stinks that the truth lost out to clicks and neilsen ratings, but I'm not surprised, it seems pretty commonplace now-a-days.

No comments:

Post a Comment