"I told the players if they even approach a gray area, I had identified where the bus station was," Hart said. "There would be no meetings with coach Bowden. They would be on the way home."
Hart's patience has been worn by what he views as "poor choices" by players.
"These errors in judgment have a negative impact on a lot of people beyond the individual that made the poor choice," Hart said. "I think it shows a general disrespect for coaches, teammates, the program and the university."
Off-field issues, however, aren't unique to FSU's program. Notre Dame suspended two players, including starting senior offensive tackle Brennan Curtin, prior to its arrival in Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl. A third player, linebacker Chad DeBolt, was arrested early Friday in Jacksonville Beach. And the Irish had four former players charged in a sexual assault case during the spring.
Elsewhere more recently, two Colorado players were arrested for public intoxication in San Antonio where the Buffaloes were preparing for a bowl game. A Wisconsin player was also suspended for that game for an off-field incident. Maine, Rhode Island and Trinity (Texas) College players have all run afoul with the law over the last few weeks, but those cases haven't cast their respective programs in the same light as Bowden's Seminoles.
"I don't believe there is a more high-profile program than ours and I say that because of Bobby's long-standing policy of accessibility," Hart said. "I think student-athletes should be held to a higher level of accountability, and I tell that to them all the time. ... because they are the university's most visible ambassador."
FSU's struggles have strengthened the resolve of coach Bobby Bowden, the nation's second-winningest Division I coach behind Joe Paterno.
"It makes me want to straighten the doggone thing out," Bowden said yesterday at his Sugar Bowl news conference. "It challenges me more. ... For the last two years we've been trying to fight ourselves back to where we were."
CHANGES: FSU's defensive tackle position has become a source of concern. The suspension of Darnell Dockett and season-ending injuries to Jeff Womble (Achilles tendon) and Brodrick Bunkley (knee) have forced the 'Noles to overhaul their defensive line. Junior DE Kevin Emanuel (15 tackles for loss, 4 sacks), who has made 13 starts, moves his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame to tackle, where he played as a freshman.
"What I wanted to do is play both positions, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen," Emanuel said. "Whatever I can do to help the team."
"We will be ready to go," Johnson said. "This is a great opportunity for Mike and Donnie. They've worked hard to take advantage of this. Nobody should worry about us."
"I'm going to look into it [the NFL], but I pretty much see myself coming back," said Pope, who leads the Seminoles with 128 tackles. "I want to get this team back on the good side of the fence. ... Being the type of player that I am, I feel like I can help get this team back to national prominence."
LEAVING?: Starting quarterback Fabian Walker suggested he probably would have transferred from FSU if not for the recent developments that led to his first starting assignment. Walker, Rix and Adrian McPherson are sophomores, but McPherson is off the team and has sent a letter to Bowden requesting a release from his scholarship so he can attempt to transfer.
``It was in the back of my mind,'' Walker said of the possibility of leaving. ``After this game I really would have thought about it.''
HELLO: Suspended FSU QB Chris Rix had a surprise visit from a fellow Californian, WR Dominic Robinson, at his home over the Christmas break. Sacked by the school for the bowl game after missing a final exam, Rix went home to tend to his father, who is in treatment for an undisclosed illness. "He's still kind of down," Robinson said. "With the things happening with his father, he feels better now that he's out there and can do things to help him. Now that we know what's going on, I think his teammates have a peace about it."
UNDERDOGS: FSU finds itself a 71/2-point underdog to Georgia.
"I'll tell you what," Bowden said. "In the last 15 years I don't believe we've been the underdog over three times. I've always preferred the underdog role. Takes a little bit of pressure off, you can play loose. But I'd still rather be the team that has the best players."
BIGGER PROBLEM: Many fans are wondering if the dismissal of McPherson and the subsequent suspensions of Rix and Darnell Dockett for the Sugar Bowl signal that the Seminole football program is in disarray?
"It's a shame it has to be that way," Bowden said. "If that's what they want to talk about I might answer some of it. Some of it I might not even mention. You all or they are really digging for something if that's all you've got to ask. Really searching for something. This is a ballgame, not the guillotine."
Bowden also said that anyone who believes the McPherson, Rix and Dockett incidents signal a larger problem is misinformed.
"They don't know what they're talking about when they go and make a statement like that," Bowden said. "They ain't got no idea what they're talking about because they don't know the good things that have happened to our kids."
RECRUITING: Recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg of Insiders.com said the Sugar Bowl will have no bearing on the recruiting competition between FSU and Georgia.
"They are pretty much going to get what they want," Newberg said. "Georgia is a state that if (the Bulldogs) are playing well, 19 of top 20 are going to play for Georgia. Florida State is one of the few schools that can come into Georgia and get kids. They've had a great track record in past."
Recruiting coordinator John Lilly said two players will enroll at FSU in January. They are kicker Chase Goggans, who has graduated from high school (Douglass, Ga.) early and junior college defensive end Chauncey Davis, who originally signed with FSU two years ago but was ineligible.
QUICK CHAT: Here's a conversation with Bowden:
Where did you see Mark Richt grow as a coach while he was at FSU?
"He had a good background in the throwing game. That's one reason. ... I tried to recruit him in high school, so I knew him in school. I can remember plain as day right now. And we played against him at Miami. I liked him. He was a very likeable guy. So, I brought him in here as a graduate assistant to work with our quarterbacks. When I had an opening, I hired him."
When he became offensive coordinator, did he become a little more assertive in his relationship with you in terms of his play calling?
"He did. He took more and more and more of it as time went by. I made him offensive coordinator when I lost Brad Scott, because I didn't want to lose that offensive philosophy. I felt like he knew it as good as anybody. And he knew the passing game as anybody and I wanted him to be head of our offense. He was in a position of responsibility and handled it good. Very dependable. And his character is so good that you can depend on him. He worked as hard as anybody at it."
How much was Mark behind in installing the shotgun into your offense?
"I will tell you how influenced he was in our shotgun. It took me three years to make him do it (laughing). I tried to get him for three years, go to the shotgun, got to the shotgun, go to the shotgun. That year when Charlie (Ward), his first year as a quarterback, I think I made him go into that year (1992). And then, he and his staff developed it. I liked to never got him sold on it. I got a lot of my ideas from Tommy. He was in the shotgun at Auburn. Terry was running the shotgun up at Samford. Of course, we talk all the time. Every year, I would say, why don't we get in the shotgun? Why don't we get in the shotgun? So, finally, that last year I made him. I said get in the shotgun. We will use it as a two-minute offense. And we did. That's when we found out Charlie could operate better out of that than behind center. So, it got more involved. That's where Mark and his staff just really took it and ran with it.He kept tweaking it. Kept developing it. Got more into it. Do more things out of it."
Was he just more comfortable in the split back?
"More comfortable up under the center. There's still a lot of teams that won't come out from it. They want that quarterback under there all the time. Steve (Spurrier) never would do it at Florida, until he beat us as the Sugar Bowl. We sacked his quarterback about seven, eight times, and he went into the shotgun. Couldn't get to him. There's a point where people who don't like it might get into it."
MIGHTY IMPRESSIVE: Georgia is in the midst of the program's most successful run in 22 years, when the Bulldogs capped their 1980 national title campaign with a 17-10 victory over Notre Dame in New Orleans.
"It's really coach Bowden's system," said Richt, who spent 16 seasons with the Seminoles before being hired away by Georgia. Last week he was given an eight-year extension by the school at $1.5 million annually. "Just about everything we've done I did at Florida State. We haven't strayed very far from the plan that coach Bowden put together."
The results are similar, too. Richt's 20-5 record in two seasons at Georgia works out to an .800 winning percentage.
. "That does amaze you -- how quick they've gone to the top," Bowden said, perhaps wistfully remembering his meteoric turnaround of the Seminoles more than two decades ago. "That's where Georgia should be, though. If you picked 15 schools in this country where you wanted to be head coach, Georgia would be one of them."