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Oklahoma's football program today was placed on three years' probation, a penalty that might have been less if some people involved in the violations weren't still at the school, the NCAA said.

Players reacted with surprise at the severity of NCAA sanctions, which place Oklahoma on probation for three years, bar the Sooners from bowl appearances for the next two years and keep them off television next season.Houston also was put on three years' probation on Friday, with no bowl appearances for two years and no telecasts next season. Houston reportedly had more than 250 NCAA violations, while Oklahoma had 20.

"There are more violations in the Houston case," David Berst, director of enforcement for the NCAA said today. "But one of the significant differences is that the violations at Houston involve people who are not there. The Oklahoma case does involve the people currently associated with the staff, and it involves some serious violations."

Oklahoma officials scheduled an afternoon news conference to respond to the penalties.

The sanctions also include cuts in the number of recruits Oklahoma can sign in the next two seasons, cuts in the number of paid visits recruits can make to the Norman campus and a reduction in the number of full-time coaches who can recruit off-campus next season.

"I wasn't expecting something like this," Ken McMichel, a junior defensive back, said Sunday. "It's a reaction of shock."

The sanctions constitute a major penalty, thus making every other program at the university susceptible to the so-called "death penalty" if any of those programs are found guilty of major violations within five years.

"I thought it would happen. I mean, we got caught doing something wrong," said senior quarterback Jamelle Holieway. "In a way it's sad . . . it's sad because I know OU's going to have a great team next year. The probation will probably take away from the season a little bit."

Oklahoma went 9-2 this season to finish the year ranked 10th. The Sooner will play Clemson in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 2.

"I'm going to use it as a positive thing," defensive tackle Tom Backes said Sunday of the probation. "We're not going to lay down. We have too many tough guys who still want to win just to beat the hell out of everybody."

The Oklahoma State football program also is awaiting NCAA sanctions, and speculation has been that the Cowboys' infractions were more severe than those of Oklahoma.

Berst said he would try, "if physically possible," to release sanctions against Oklahoma State by Friday.

In its letter detailing the sanctions, the NCAA asked Oklahoma to show cause why it should not be penalized further if it fails to discipline two assistant football coaches and the former recruiting coordinator, and fails to disassociate itself from a booster.

The assistants and the booster were not identified, although The Daily Oklahoman reported today that the coaches are Mike Jones and Scott Hill. Jones coaches receivers. Hill coaches running backs and is in charge of recruiting.

Recruiting coordinator Shirley Vaughan was removed from her post on Nov. 7, and Duncan said last week that action was related to the NCAA investigation.

Berst said should Oklahoma remove the two assistants, that would not change the penalties.

The NCAA also will limit Oklahoma to 18 football scholarships in each of the next two years instead of 25.

The NCAA said it found "numerous and major violations," including:

- A booster provided an automobile for a prospective student-athlete at no cost.

- An assistant coach led a student-athlete to believe that he would be "taken care of" if he enrolled at the school.

- An assistant coach provided $1,000 in cash to a recruit as an inducement to enroll at the school.

- Student-athletes were given cash for the sale of their complimentary season tickets.

- The former recruiting coordinator arranged for airplane tickets at no cost for a recruit and a student-athlete.

- Switzer supplemented the salaries of assistant coaches and staff and paid for rental cars of student hosts from his checking account.

- Transportation, entertainment and inducements were provided to prospective student-athletes.