With all due respect to Joe Paterno and his sportsmanlike treatment of coaching rival Bobby Bowden, the NCAA was right to come down hard on Florida State University in March and it was right this month to reject the university's appeal of its punishment.
The sports powerhouse was caught in an academic scandal involving 61 athletes whom the National Collegiate Athletic Association said cheated on an online test in a music history course or got help from staff who gave them answers to the exam and typed papers for them. The misconduct occurred between fall 2006 and summer 2007.
The NCAA's infractions committee lowered the boom on the Tallahassee-based university three months ago and said it would be stripped of wins in 10 sports, including football. Last week, it was revealed that the committee dismissed FSU's appeal on June 2.
For Coach Bowden, 79, it could mean forfeiting 14 of the wins he racked up with the Seminoles, giving Penn State's Coach Paterno, 83, a nearly insurmountable lead for most wins in history as a Division I football coach. The Nittany Lions coach is ahead in the count, 383-382.
Mr. Bowden said last week that "Joe would not want to win this thing the way [the NCAA is] doing this."
For his part, Mr. Paterno was gracious toward his rival in remarks made to reporters in April. "My feeling is, Bobby coached the team he had and he won, OK? He ought to get credit for the wins," he said.
But not if FSU athletes cheated along the way. Colleges already make too many allowances to maintain their competitive edge in sports. If cheating on a test or getting answers slipped to them from staff becomes just another part of the program, then all those wins on the field become hollow victories.
That goes for Bobby Bowden or any other coach.