LINCOLN, Neb. — The National Collegiate Athletic Assn. has suspended 53 University of Nebraska football players for one game and seven others for two games, and the Cornhuskers could possibly forfeit their season opener, Coach Tom Osborne said Wednesday.
School officials said the players were suspended primarily because of the misuse of complimentary tickets.
The eighth-ranked Cornhuskers are scheduled to play host to 11th-ranked Florida State Saturday night in a nationally televised game.
The suspensions involve about 30 of the Cornhuskers' top 40 players, according to Osborne, who announced the penalties following practice Wednesday.
"We're naturally amazed and very angry about the whole thing," Osborne said. "We told the players we will do everything possible to appeal this."
The violations involved players allowing unauthorized people to use game passes. Family members and students are the only people allowed to use players' passes, according to NCAA rules.
Osborne said one option open to Nebraska is to forfeit to Florida State.
"It wouldn't be a game. It'd be a joke and an embarrassment to college football," Osborne said.
"In order to field a team Saturday, we'd have to un-redshirt about 10 guys and play freshmen that are in no way prepared to play Florida State and face humiliation on national TV. So what do we do? I don't know."
Osborne said the NCAA offered Nebraska two alternatives:
--All 60 players could sit out Saturday's game.
--Ten players could sit out each of the next six or seven games.
Osborne said he expects the school to make a decision today but he said he didn't think the Cornhuskers would choose to have the penalties spread over six or seven games.
"You'd die a slow death that way," he said. "It looks to me like you might be better off to take your medicine in one dose rather than bleed to death."
ABC-TV will review the contract for the game, according to Donn Bernstein, the network's director of college sports.
"We've never had anything like this happen before," Bernstein said. "We need to hear from Nebraska how they plan to resolve the situation."
Nebraska Chancellor Martin Massengale said the infractions were minor and the penalties "excessive and unreasonable." The rule involved has been changed four times in the last five years, most recently on Aug. 1, 1985, Massengale said in a statement.
Cecil (Hootie) Ingram, Florida State's athletic director, declined to speculate on a potential loss of money in case of a forfeit.
"I don't think we're going to get to that," he said. "I feel sure we'll play. . . . It's always something to keep life interesting."
Seminole Coach Bobby Bowden estimated each team would receive about $300,000 because the game is on television.
"I hope we play the game," Bowden said.
Osborne, in his 14th year as Nebraska's head coach, said he learned of the penalties Tuesday.
Osborne said each player last year had four passes per game, and were allowed to give them to fellow students or family members.
"We had players that went beyond that," Osborne said, adding the most common problem was listing family friends as aunts or uncles.
"Absolutely no money changed hands," Osborne said. "There was no evidence of scalping.
"I'm very angry about the whole thing. It looks like cooperating hasn't resulted in any benefits to anybody that I can see. We're going to fight it any way we can.
"The interesting thing is that the players were completely honest. Had they lied, the NCAA wouldn't have known the difference. We tried to be honest and above board on the matter.
"I feel bad because I told the players to be honest."
An NCAA spokesman said the association would not comment.
"As far as I know, the matter is still being discussed," Jim Marchiony, director of media relations for the NCAA in Mission, Kan., said.
Osborne said two of the players were suspended for one game because they were improperly reimbursed for trips from the Fiesta Bowl to their hometowns last January. The infractions involved I-back Doug DuBose and sophomore defensive end Broderick Thomas, Osborne said.
DuBose, who rushed for 1,040 yards as a sophomore and followed with 1,161 yards last season, was lost for the season when he suffered a knee injury in a preseason scrimmage.
Senior offensive guard Mike Hoefler was suspended for one game because he borrowed a van owned by a family in Lincoln for two weeks to drive to work. Hoefler paid the family $100 and twice filled the van with gas.
Osborne would not release the names of the other players penalized.
The suspensions were issued by the NCAA Eligibility Committee. The university will appeal the decision to the NCAA's Council's Sub-Committee on Eligibility Appeals, Massengale said in a statement.