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Oklahoma football players reacted with shock and disappointment to reports that the program had been placed on probation for three years, with no bowl games in 1989 or 1990 and no televised games next season.

"I really can't believe the penalties are this harsh," senior split end Carl Cabbiness said Sunday."I mean, yes, some things were done wrong, but I don't think anything that major. I can't believe it."

Defensive back Kevin Thompson, a junior, said he tries not to worry about things he cannot control. "But I think the penalty is a bit stiff," he said. "I could see them taking scholarships away, but no TV and no bowls is a bit much."

Some players suggested the NCAA was trying to make an example of Oklahoma, one of the most visible programs in the nation.

"It seems kind of harsh compared to what other schools have gotten," said placekicker R.D. Lashar. "Like Houston with 200-odd allegations and Texas last year. Our penalties seem really stiff compared to those penalties."

Senior quarterback Jamelle Holieway said the penalty was sad.

"It's sad because I know OU's going to have a great team next year," he said. "The probation will probably take away from the season a little bit."

One player who said he wouldn't let it affect his season was sophomore defensive lineman Tom Backes.

"At some schools, it might tend to kind of take away their spirit, make 'em think `Why are we playing?' " Backes said. "Not me. It's still gonna be the same. We're gonna try to go out and win every game, just like it always was."

Backes said he would try to use the probation as a motivation.

"We're gonna try to win the national championship while being on probation. That would be something," he said.

"We're not gonna lay down about it. We have too many tough guys who still want to win just to beat the hell out of everybody."