TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State coach Bobby Bowden called
off an afternoon practice Wednesday to meet with his players, at least 20 of which are expected to be suspended for the Music City
Bowl for involvement in an academic cheating scandal.
The Seminoles (7-5) will take on Kentucky (7-5) on New Year's
Eve in Nashville with a decidedly watered-down roster.
"Naturally we're having to make a lot of adjustments," Bowden
said. "We've got some guys who will be playing positions they
haven't played before."
Bowden said he never considered trying to back out of the game
because of the suspensions.
"If it's comfortable with the bowl people it's comfortable for
me," he said.
The university, citing federal privacy laws, has not identified
the athletes being disciplined for cheating on an online music
Including walk-ons, the number of players facing suspension could approach 25. The source said student-athletes in several other sports also were implicated in the cheating scandal.
At least two football players already have been penalized for
their involvement. Defensive end Kevin McNeil missed the season and
wide receiver Joslin Shaw missed the first four games. Athletes
from other sports were also involved.
Linebacker Dekoda Watson, one of the Seminoles' top players,
offered a no comment when asked if he was being suspended, but
hinted that he might not be playing against the Wildcats.
"You are just trying to help your teammates, keep them
enthused," he said. "You still are a leader, you still have to
play a role whether you are playing or not."
While few players were willing to even discuss the sanctions,
quarterback Drew Weatherford was optimistic.
"There's a lot of guys who will have opportunities now who
haven't had it in the past and they'll get a chance to show what
they've got," he said.
The Seminoles weren't exactly loaded to start.
"I think we'll be competitive," the 78-year-old Bowden said.
"Where it hurts you is depth. You've got to stay healthy."
Bowden said the NCAA has determined the suspensions. Many of the
suspended players will miss the first three games of next season,
"We'll try to adjust our schedule the best we can," said
Bowden, who replaced his entire offensive coaching staff a year ago
-- including youngest son Jeff -- after a handful of seasons with a
declining offense and victory totals.
The school is working on September home games against
Chattanooga and Western Carolina.
Bowden is the winningest coach in major college history with 373
wins, two more than Penn State's Joe Paterno. He's won two national
championships and had a 14-year run of double-digit wins and
top-five finishes in the AP poll.
School officials on Dec. 10 announced that offensive coordinator
Jimbo Fisher had agreed to become Florida State's "head
coach-in-waiting." The new keep Bowden at Florida State for at
least another year -- his 33rd at the school. They also lock in
Fisher as Bowden's would-be successor until Jan. 9, 2011 unless
Fisher or a suitor coughs up $2.5 million.
The latest academic suspensions are not the first Bowden has had
to deal with in a bowl game.
Star receiver Snoop Minnis didn't play in the 2000 national
championship game loss to Oklahoma and quarterback Chris Rix was
suspended a couple years later in another loss -- to Georgia in the
Sugar Bowl. Running back Amp Lee didn't play in the 1991 Cotton
Bowl win over Texas A&M.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.