June 17, 2014 - by

A Message From Athletics Director Randy Spetman



A Message From Athletics Director Randy Spetman

Dear Seminoles 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:

  • 3 ACC SCHOLAR ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARDS
  • 5 ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICANS
  • 1 NCAA POSTGRADUATE SCHOLARSHIP AWARD
  • 3 ACC POSTGRADUATE SCHOLARSHIP AWARDS
  • 6 ARTHUR ASHE, JR. SCHOLAR AWARDS
  • 15 COSIDA/ESPN ACADEMIC ALL DISTRICT
  • 61 STUDENT-ATHLETES ON ALL ACC ACADEMIC TEAMS
  • 175 STUDENT-ATHLETES ON ACC ACADEMIC HONOR ROLL
  • 17 STUDENT-ATHLETES MADE THE PRESIDENT’S LIST
  • 139 STUDENT-ATHLETES MADE THE DEAN’S LIST
  • 41% OF ALL STUDENT-ATHLETES EARNED A 3.0 GPA OR HIGHER
  • 10 TEAMS EARNED A 3.0 GPA OR HIGHER

For more information about student-athletes at Florida State, email: everythingFSU@fsu.com.

Sincerely,
Athletic Director Randy Spetman


CONFERENCE CALL REGARDING UPCOMING OTL PROGRAM

Date: Fri, 11 Dec 2009 14:34:22 -0500
To: vince.doria@espn.com
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)

Hi,
 
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
860-766-9084
Jamila.D.Phillips@espn.com
 
(NOTE: Same request was emailed to Coach Bowden via FSU Athletics Department staff)

 


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