I have to admit it, I love college football and have as long as I can remember. In my late 40's now, I am old enough to remember when fans of college football were rooting for more than just a collection of players wearing a particular helmet and jersey; we were rooting for the town, the spirit of community and the university. We were rooting for our coach and in our case in Tallahassee, we were rooting for a good guy in Bobby Bowden. The school, coach and program represented a a slice of our beliefs and identity in a dynamic and dramatic way that nothing else could. If you wanted to be counter-culture in 1993 and you were a stud recruit, you could go to Miami. If you wanted to play for a gruff, sarcastic offensive genius at a school with tacky colors you could go to Florida. If you wanted to play for a good guy at a scrappy program that emerged from the ashes of an all-girls school in the 1940's you could go to Tallahassee.
Speaking of Tallahassee, it's a unique place. The trees are second to none and the people are strangely diverse and homogenous at the same time. The town is big but still small too. There is just something different about Tallahassee that gets into your blood and stays there. The University has always reflected that in my opinion. I root for FSU because Tallahassee is special to me. We were very fortunate to do a lot with not much resource, having a legendary coach who created a dynasty out of nothing and then handed that baton to a an offensive savant who was eager to win. Even in the face of college football changing, I love Tallahassee and I love FSU. When Taggart was hired it seemed like a continuation of hiring "one of our own". But, as we know, that did not work out.
When I heard that Norvell had been hired, I told people around me that this was going to be homerun hire but that it was going to take time to change the culture and bring all aspects of the program into this era of college football. I feel that we are incredibly fortunate to have Norvell and his staff here in Tallahassee. The obstacles that Norvell faced when he came here are mostly well documented but let me say this, whoever had this job was going to need time and resources to fix the program under the best possible circumstances. I believe that Norvell is doing that but with class, which is eerily reminiscent of Bobby Bowden. I am proud to have him as a coach, and I think his brand is that he is different; and the results we are seeing in recruiting and the portal reflect that. Look at how former players, coaches and administrators speak of Norvell.
There is a problem though. On early signing Wednesday, 2021, College football as we knew it died.
It is the worst of all worlds: it is a business without rules. A junior NFL environment with no salary cap or draft lottery to maintain parody among programs. It is in short, the wild-wild west.
Have things always been on the up and up in recruiting? Of course not, but at least the coach, the town and the program used to factor heavily into the discussion. You wanted to come play for Bowden or pick your coach. You wanted to put that helmet on. A lawless, backroom-deals college football landscape has largely taken that away from most programs in the country. College football is now eBay; you can hang around in the shadows until the last hour of the auction and bid your way to a player.
What is the solution? That's a discussion for another day. What I do believe is that FSU has an advantage. We have a coach that apparently is very upfront with players and does what he says he will. Apparently, somehow, there have been kids that like the idea of having that spear on their helmet. I believe that Norvell is the closest thing we could ever get to a modern day Bobby Bowden and for that reason, I will continue to root for FSU even though college football is mostly dead to me now.
We will be looking mostly at teams in the coming years that have players that went where the money was, regardless of the coach, community or spirit of the program. Where the money is doesn't have to be any reflection of a well-run organization either; it's simply who you know. Is that parody? In the form that we saw in December 2021, no it's not; it's unchecked mercenary craziness foisted upon 18 year old kids.
The one thing that I can take away as a positive is that I am proud to have our coach and his staff and that players like Jermain Johnson seemed to see something different too and that kernel seems to be growing despite the bastardization of college football as we knew it.