Injuries, Cheating, Other Violations Leave 'Noles Short 36 Players

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Thirty-six Florida State players won't be going to the Dec. 31 Music City Bowl against Kentucky because of an academic cheating scandal, violations of team rules, injuries or other reasons.

Linebacker Dekoda Watson, cornerback Patrick Robinson, who had six interceptions, and three top defensive tackles were among the players sidelined either as a result of the ongoing investigation into an academic cheating scandal at the school or some other violation of team rules.

"It is very important that the media make clear that those missing the bowl trip are not included because of either injury or for a violation of team policy," associate athletic director Rob Wilson said in a statement accompanying the travel list. "It would be irresponsible to imply or state that any or all of the student-athletes will miss the trip for one particular reason."

The total number of players not going to the game was determined by comparing the travel list with the roster provided by the university. That figure, however, was disputed by Wilson, who said up to 10 walk-ons would have stayed home regardless.

The school announced earlier this week that as many as 25 players might be affected by its ongoing investigation of academic wrongdoing by the athletes. It didn't identify which students.

A violation of team rules could range from poor class attendance to a run-in with the law or failing a drug test, among many other things.

The Florida State roster was so thinned by the academic scandal that the team had room for 17 players on the traveling party who are either redshirt freshmen or athletes who suffered season-ending or career-ending injuries this season. Only 43 scholarship players are available to coach Bobby Bowden for the game.

Junior quarterback Xavier Lee, who started three games for the Seminoles, was among offensive players not traveling. The offensive line was also hit hard with tight ends Caz Piurowski and Charlie Graham, offensive tackle Daron Rose and guard Jackie Claude not making the trip.

The absence of defensive tackles Letroy Guion, Budd Thacker and Paul Griffin, linebacker Marcus Ball and defensive ends Neefy Moffett and Justin Mincey could lead to a big day for Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson.

The team's top two tacklers -- linebackers Derek Nicholson and Geno Hayes -- will play.

And while Florida State usually has a couple of casualties after the first semester, never has a Bowden-coached team limped off to postseason play without this many players.

"You have 22 positions out there and some you'd be more concerned about than others," Bowden said following Friday's practice. "I think we've gotten everything we could out of it."

The Seminoles, who will match 7-5 season records with Kentucky, will have most of their key skill players. Quarterback Drew Weatherford, tailback-receiver Preston Parker and wide receiver Greg Carr were healthy and unscathed by the sanctions.

Thirteen of the names missing from the travel list had started games this season for Florida State. Eleven of the players not traveling were non-scholarship athletes.

Meanwhile, former Florida State athletic director David Hart Jr. rebutted part of Florida State President T.K. Wetherell's statement Friday that could have implied that the scandal led to Hart's leaving the university a year before his contract expired.

"There's no connection there," Hart said Saturday. "I can assure you that my separation from Florida State had absolutely nothing to do with this current review of academic misconduct. To even suggest otherwise would be irresponsible."

Copyright 2006-2007, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved


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