On the same day that Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban surprisingly hung up the headset, Mike Norvell became the first Florida State head coach to receive the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award.
What was an interesting coincidence quickly turned into a potential source of unfortunate foreshadowing, as Norvell’s name surged to the top of lists throwing out potential replacements for Saban.
With Dan Lanning and Steve Sarkisian off the board in successive days, fans and media alike wondered if those would be Norvell's last accomplishments in Tallahassee.
Would he trade in a spear for an elephant and finish his climb on a different mountain?
Would this be the second FSU coach to bolt for the SEC for presumed greener fields elsewhere?
Mike Norvell’s decision suddenly became a referendum on and a crucial fork in the road for the program. Staying would double down on his belief in bringing a national championship in Tallahassee and illustrate a commitment that would give a resounding endorsement to Michael Alford and the backing he has from the university.
Leaving would not just erase the new era of Florida State football built on the philosophy and values of the head man but further criticism that FSU, not part of the soon-to-be Power 2, is a stepping stone for head coaches looking to audition for the SEC.
Michael Alford gave Mike Norvell over 80 million reasons to stay in Tallahassee, taking the Texas native’s name out of the Alabama coaching search hours before Washington Huskies head coach Kalen DeBoer was named as the Crimson Tide’s new head man.
In doing so, FSU made sure it not only secured the future that Norvell has built but paved a path to further elevate the Seminoles’ standing — giving a well-due raise while also enabling Norvell to enhance his program’s reach on and off the field.
“It has been an incredible journey these last four years,” Norvell said in a statement. “I have fallen in love with this program, the university, and the people who I get to represent.”
“I am so excited to continue our climb to push Florida State back to the top of college football.”
He’s often called FSU a “destination job” and exclaimed they were “building something special,” exhibiting a belief that even with a 13-0 regular season record, the Seminoles were just scratching the surface of what is possible in Tallahassee. By committing to the program for eight more years, he literally and figuratively put his money where his mouth is. From a recruiting standpoint, no university will be able to discuss Norvell’s commitment to the program negatively — a point he discussed earlier this year, mentioning that at one point other schools that once suggested he would be fired were now saying he’d switch jobs at the first opportunity. After already not entertaining the possibility of the Texas A&M job (and, to his credit, not using the opportunity to double-dip on a raise and extension), he turned down a chance at what many believe is the best job in college football to complete his legacy at Florida State.
Norvell, as exhibited through a plethora of actions, is one of the few coaches in the sport who still sincerely possesses a belief in maintaining high morals and loyalty (“how you do anything is how you’ll do everything”), sometimes to a fault. He always mentions what coaching a program with so much history, tradition, and culture means to him — it’s illustrated by how much emotional weight he puts into the success of his players and staff. It matters to him to be a coach and impact his players’ lives daily. If he bolted for the Alabama job, all of what he stood for and talked about would be questioned.
Instead, he delivered his loudest statement.
Mike Norvell will be the face of the program to guide Florida State through the next challenging years of the ever-changing college football landscape. He will be the leader when FSU inevitably joins a new conference. He will be the man who needs to answer questions from the NCAA investigation and tie up the loose ends from the recruiting failures.
Most of all, Mike Norvell officially establishes himself as the heir to Bobby Bowden. Jimbo Fisher looked to be the answer for some time, but Mike Norvell solidified himself as the man to bring FSU to what it once was, spurning a chance to jump to Tuscaloosa to instead continue to climb in Tallahassee as the Riverboat Gambler once did in both 1986 and 1990.
After a rocky start to the climb, Florida State and Mike Norvell are looking towards the summit.