Joe Paterno's lead over Bobby Bowden in the career Division I wins race is about to increase substantially after the NCAA slapped Florida State with major sanctions Friday.
Paterno has compiled 383 wins at Penn State, most all-time. Bowden has 382 victories but might have to forfeit as many as 14 of them because of academic violations that occurred during the Seminoles' 2006 and '07 seasons.
Florida State must research its record books to see which victories included ineligible athletes, then would have to forfeit those wins. School officials, however, said they would appeal any decision that would force Bowden to give up victories.
The wins race would essentially be over if Bowden has to forfeit 14 wins, as long as the 82-year-old Paterno's health allows him to coach a large portion of the three years on his contract.
Bowden, 79, has a one-year deal in place and may coach an additional season, then the university is expected to turn the job over to assistant coach Jimbo Fisher in 2011. If Fisher is not the head coach in 2011, the university will owe him a $2.5 million buyout.
There has long been a debate over whether Bowden should be credited with 382 victories. He recorded 31 of them while coaching at Division I-AA Howard in the 1950s, and those victories later were grandfathered into his Division I total.
Florida State's sanctions stem from a massive academic fraud scandal involving 61 athletes from 10 of the university's teams, including football. The NCAA punished FSU by stripping scholarships from those teams and forcing them to give up victories from games in which implicated athletes competed in from 2006-07.
Florida State won seven football games in 2006 and also in 2007. If the NCAA ruling is upheld and Bowden has to forfeit the wins, it would reduce his total to 368 and leave him 15 behind Paterno.
The NCAA investigated a music course offered by Florida State that led to the academic fraud, with tutors and advisers allegedly doing the athletes' coursework.
"Academic fraud is among the most egregious of NCAA violations," the NCAA report read. "The committee was concerned with the large number of student-athletes involved in the fraud and especially by the fact that individuals within the institutions [academic administration] unit were involved.
"The committee was further troubled by the fact that there were warning signs indicating that academic improprieties were taking place, but these warning signs were, for the most part, ignored."
Florida State President T.K. Wetherell said the school should not have to forfeit wins.
"We just don't understand the sanction to vacate all wins in athletics contests in which ineligible student-athletes competed because we did not allow anyone who we knew was ineligible to compete," Wetherell said in a statement. "Our position throughout the inquiry was that as soon as we knew of a problem, they didnt play."
Bowden led Paterno by eight games after the 2004 season, 351-343, but Penn State's resurgence and Florida State's struggles the past few years put JoePa back on top.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031.