LINCOLN, Neb. — The NCAA's Eligibility Committee has declared at least 53 University of Nebraska football players ineligible for one game and seven more for two games as the result of infractions involving the distribution of tickets, Cornhuskers Coach Tom Osborne said Wednesday.
Osborne said the status of Nebraska's season opener at home Saturday night against Florida State is in doubt and university officials were determining the quickest way to appeal the decision.
Osborne said the Eligibility Committee's action was based on information furnished by the university. The NCAA was not immediately available for comment.
"I'm very angry about the whole thing," Osborne said. "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 NCAA offered to have Nebraska sit out 10 ineligible players per game until the penalties were fulfilled, Osborne said. Seven of the players involved would be ineligible for two games, Osborne said.
Osborne said he was scheduled to appear before the NCAA's Infractions Committee in Maine Sept. 29.
"We might be better off to take our medicine in one day than to bleed to death for six or seven weeks," Osborne said, adding to play Florida State with all the ineligible players out would be a "joke."
Osborne said each player last year had four passes per game, and were allowed to give them to fellow students and 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."
Nebraska has the NCAA record for consecutive home sellouts with 143 entering this season and the six games at Memorial Stadium this year were already sold out.
Said Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden: "I'm shocked as you can imagine. I want to wait and see what Osborne is going to say. What we don't want to do is let our guard down. We're just going to prepare for the situation as if nothing had happened. What if we go out there and they're all fired up?"
Osborne said in one case linebacker Kevin Parson's mother was driven to a Cornhusker game by a next-door neighbor, the only one available for the drive. Osborne said the neighbor was admitted through the pass gate as Parson's relative.
"The interesting thing is that the players were completely honest. Had they lied the NCAA wouldn't have known the difference," Osborne said. "We tried to be honest and above board on the matter.
"I feel bad because I told the players to be honest."
Osborne said numerous other schools probably are guilty of the same type of infractions.
Senior guard Mike Hoefler, a two-time letterman, also was declared ineligible for infractions involving his staying at the home of a Lincoln couple under the university's Lincoln Parents Program, disbanded earlier this year, Osborne said.
Hoefler was cited for staying with his "Lincoln Parents" for two weeks during the summer of 1983 at which time he was working in Lincoln, Osborne said. Hoefler's parents paid the Lincoln couple $100 for keeping their son, but the player used the couple's van to drive to and from work, Osborne said.
Osborne said the NCAA committee ruled use of the van was a violation, though Hoefler only drove 10 days, put $30 to $40 worth of gas in it, and washed and waxed the vehicle.
The NCAA committee absolved defensive end Broderick Thomas and running back Doug DuBose of wrongdoing for being improperly reimbursed for travel expenses from the Fiesta Bowl, Osborne said.
He said the university business office mistakenly paid Thomas and DuBose. Dubose, one of the top running backs in college last year, is out for the season with an injured knee.
Still pending is the NCAA investigation into DuBose's leasing of a sports car. The NCAA is looking into allegations someone connected to the university co-signed the lease. Osborne said the allegation is without foundation.
"Every dime that Doug got, as far as we know, came from his parents," Osborne said. "Doug has been greatly maligned in this whole thing. Both of his parents work and are wealthy people. They believe in spending money on their kids. The NCAA has not believed what they've told them."
Also pending, Osborne said, is whether seven or eight players violated NCAA regulations by staying overnight with their "Lincoln Parents."
"We tried to go their route," Osborne said. "All bets are off at this point as far as I'm concerned."
He said he has told his players he would be the spokesman on the matter.
"I told them I would just as soon do the talking. I don't want them to pop off and have the NCAA come back at them," Osborne said. "If they are going to come back on somebody, they can come back on me.