Court Orders NCAA to Release Documents in Fla. State Case

October 2, 2009

A state appeals court in Florida on Thursday ordered the National Collegiate Athletic Association to make public documents it produced during its investigation into academic wrongdoing in Florida State University's sports program, despite the association's best efforts to shield the papers. Usually the NCAA and its member colleges are on the same side of disputes over the privacy of the association's rule making process (usually against the news media, which were the plaintiffs in this case, too, led by the Associated Press). But in this instance, Florida State had encouraged the release of the documents because they are related to the university's appeal of what its officials view as overly harsh penalties imposed on its athletes and its football coach, Bobby Bowden. The NCAA sought to get around Florida's expansive open records law by putting the documents on a secure Web site available only to the university's outside lawyers instead of sending them to Florida State officials. But the Florida court didn't buy the NCAA's arguments: "Although these documents were prepared and maintained by a private organization, they were 'received' by agents of a public agency and used in connection with public business.... As the plaintiffs expressed this point, the definition of a public record does not turn on the sender‟s method of transmission." NCAA officials said they were considering their legal options.

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