NCAA bowls over Florida's postseason bid

October 03, 1990|By George Diaz | George Diaz,The Orlando Sentinel

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It will be another season with an asterisk for the Florida Gators.

The NCAA's Committee on Infractions yesterday denied president John Lombardi's request to reduce grants-in-aid for the football program in lieu of a one-year bowl ban this season.

Under the Southeastern Conference's rules, the Gators also are prohibited from competing for a Southeastern Conference title, although their games will count in the conference standings. If Florida wins more conference games than any of the nine other schools, the title will go to the second-place team.

"It didn't work out, so we're going to accept it," Gators coach Steve Spurrier said. "We're not going to sit around and complain about it anymore. It's life; it's history; it's over with."

Spurrier told his players during a meeting yesterday morning, then planned to discuss with seniors how to restructure the team's goals because "a couple of them are out the window."

A remote possibility includes The Associated Press' national championship. The Gators, currently 4-0 and ranked No. 10 by AP, are not eligible for United Press International's national title because that poll excludes teams on probation.

Winning the AP's national title while on probation is not unprecedented. Oklahoma did it in 1974.

"We still have a chance to go undefeated, which a lot of people didn't think we could do," quarterback Shane Matthews said. "We need to win them all just to prove something to the people around the nation."

Lombardi's request, filed Sept. 25, was his only viable alternative because Florida lacked sufficient grounds for a formal appeal.

The announcement of the penalty came after the Committee on Infractions' investigation cited one major violation: that former Gators coach Galen Hall improperly helped Jarvis Williams with a child-support payment of $360.40.

In a conciliatory five-page letter, Lombardi requested cuts of eight grants-in-aid in 1991-92 and four in 1992-93.

The chances of Florida's successfully challenging the committee were bleak, given that the one-year ban was well within the NCAA guidelines and that the committee spared Florida harsher sanctions because of corrective measures taken to ensure institutional control.

"While we are disappointed in this result, we know our student athletes and coaches will continue the high standard of competition and performance that has become their trademark," Lombardi said in a prepared statement. "At the University of Florida we know that however important the recognition of conference titles and bowl game invitations, the greatest championships are won each day, each game and with each personal goal achieved."

The letter did not specify why the request was denied, citing only that the committee "reaffirmed" its penalties. Such action, however, would likely have established a dangerous precedent for the NCAA.

"We sat down, discussed it and ended up reaffirming our decision," said Alan Williams, a history professor at the University of Virginia and the committee chairman.

The bad news is nothing new to a Gators program stripped of the SEC championship in 1984 and denied a share of the title in 1985 because of previous sanctions.

"We play for ourselves. We play for the fans," said senior defensive back Richard Fain. "We're still a football team. Even though we can't win the SEC title on paper, I think we can still win it and keep it in our hearts for the rest of our lives."

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