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Column: FSU football program, fanbase still adjusting to first modern ‘rebuild’

Most involved with Florida State haven’t experienced a true rebuild- it hasn’t happened in nearly half a century.

Miami v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Florida State’s program has been placed in a collective mindset that has simply never occurred in their modern history as a national power.

In a bizarre, delayed after-effect of the Dynasty experience and the overall 34-year tenure of legendary FSU head coach Bobby Bowden, a large percentage of the people associated with Florida State football (fans, media, even employees of FSU) have never actually experienced a true rebuild.

That’s because it hasn’t happened in Tallahassee in nearly half a century.

The fact is, the concept of a rebuild is so alien to those who follow the Noles that many have been left scratching their heads, wondering what to do next.

If you didn’t grow up with Bowden as the face of a steady program, you’re either still a teenager or approaching your sixties. Further ballooning this already large chunk of history is the rampant pace that college football has progressed during that time, with several postseason eras and an explosion of the money surrounding the sport.

While the Seminoles enjoyed not only sustained success but also a constant regime, the rest of the college football world collectively dealt with the reality of undergoing numerous head coaching changes and the possible pitfalls of a bad hire.

Take a look at any other college football program in America during Florida State’s 36-year bowl streak. Every single team had a significant “down” period, miring in losing seasons and an exasperated fanbase that sounds familiar to what FSU is going through currently.

Not only national powers considered equivalent to Florida State, but even the greatest college football programs in history have endured worst years than FSU had before their bowl streak ended in 2018. The mighty Alabama Crimson Tide went a paltry 4-7 in 1997 and 3-8 in 2000. Before they hired former FSU running back Mack Brown in 1998, the Texas Longhorns had four seasons under .500 in the previous decade. Notre Dame has posted records of 3-9, 4-8 and 5-7 in the past 20 years. Oklahoma went 3-8 and 4-8 in back-to-back seasons in the late 1990’s.

Every single FBS college football program has seen desperate times and losing seasons in the past half-century.

Perhaps even more importantly, the school’s fanbases and those who follow the program have experience with bad seasons and teams as well.

Because of the brilliance of Bowden (albeit with a small downtown), and the relatively smooth transition to his successor Jimbo Fisher, FSU faithful were shielded like a small child from the reality of life as a fan of a college football program. The reality is that sometimes, for whatever reason, mistakes are made around a program, and a team must rebuild before they can immediately jump back to success.

It’s perfectly reasonable, and current FSU head coach Mike Norvell finds himself in the midst of this process in 2020.

The problem is: Florida State’s mass following has never been asked to undergo a rebuild.

When fans see a losing record next to Florida State’s name, based off the past 44 years, at first glance they probably think it’s a misprint. Most of the media outlets that cover FSU weren’t even in existence the last time the program was rebuilding. Employees of the school have woken up each and every day with Florida State’s football team, the money engine that drives the athletic program, in a prosperous position until the recent struggles. Even the national media isn’t used to covering FSU during a truly disappointing season.

Again, those around the program are confused, lacking scope, and inexperienced with the Seminoles’ current predicament.

Since the situation is so unique for so many (unlike any other program’s following), it brings into question how that is effecting our interpretation of what we have seen play out two of the past three Saturdays.

In any situation, a second-half collapse leading to a 16-13 loss, followed by a 52-10 blowout to a bitter rival is a disappointing way to start the season. And no one could argue that there were a slew of bad losses and terrible moments in 2018 and 2019.

But did living in the penthouse of a NCAA-record bowl streak and sustained excellence make current life in the outhouse seem even tougher for Florida State?

While every other college football team’s success swung up and down the past five decades like a stock on the S&P 500, Florida State’s arrow generally pointed up over that entire span.

Now, everyone involved with the program must finally adjust and accept the stark reality that the Seminoles are certainly mired in a major rebuilding stage.