TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State coach Bobby Bowden called off an afternoon practice Wednesday to meet with his players, about two dozen 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 water-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 history exam.
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, too.
"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.
For more coverage of the Florida State Seminoles, check out Warchant.com.