TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Two Florida State football players connected to a cheating scandal say they regret their actions could cost coach Bobby Bowden as many as 14 victories, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
The two seniors, defensive tackle Budd Thacker and linebacker Dekoda Watson, said they're sorry that their actions might lead to NCAA discipline and the tarnishing of Bowden's legacy, according to the report.
"I know personally and for the guys that were involved with it, we're sincerely sorry about what happened," Watson said, according to the Sentinel. "And, I mean, that's all I can do. If I could turn back the hands of time, which anybody would say, I would."
"There was a time when I was depressed," Watson said, according to the report. "But all things happen for a reason. And now as far as Coach Bowden, I personally feel like he worked hard for [his legacy] and brought Florida State around ... they can't knock that he's still a legend.
"They can't knock that he did win all of those games, fair and square."
Bowden said "there might have been some" of his players who apologized directly to him for cheating, according to the report. But he also said the 25 players involved "have paid the price."
"It's not like they all came in here and apologized, no, and I don't expect them to," Bowden said, the Sentinel reported.
Florida State is appealing the NCAA's decision to strip Bowden of wins as part of its punishment for academic fraud that involved a total of 61 athletes, who allegedly cheated on an online music course exam. The NCAA placed Florida State on four years' probation, cut 19 athletic scholarships and ordered the school to vacate victories by 10 teams whose student-athletes were involved.
Bowden currently has 382 career wins, one fewer than Penn State's Joe Paterno. Being stripped of as many as 14 of those wins would make it difficult for Bowden, 79, to catch or pass Paterno for the all-time major college mark.
"It's horrible, man," Thacker said of the potential impact on Bowden, according to the Sentinel. "It's a bad thing. I feel sorry for Coach Bowden [but] I think he'll be all right in the end."
The NCAA found no evidence that Bowden and other Florida State coaches played a role in the scandal or knew that cheating was occurring. Bowden has pointed that out in supporting the appeal, saying it's unfair to take wins from coaches who didn't know what was going on.
"I'm just concerned about our track team, which won two national championships. I'm just concerned about that and other coaches that won games," Bowden said Thursday, according to the Sentinel. "I heard commentators saying, 'They deserve it. They deserve it.' Why do we deserve it? I mean, why do our coaches deserve it? We didn't know anything about it."