Thursday, July 21, 2005

F$U on the Decline?

I've felt for a number of years now that FSU was declining as a national power in football. They'll still be a very good program that may contend from time to time but the golden era of the 1990s is over in Tallahassee. Much like Nebraska, Seminole fans don't quite know what to make of their recent struggles. Since defeating Virginia Tech in the 1999 title game the aura and intimidating presence of the Seminoles has hardly intimidated many opponents. When former Maryland coach Mark Duffner hired a Chief Osceola imposter to ride out onto the practice field so he could dramatically break the trademark spear over his knee it was viewed as a humorous and slightly unwise move by a desperate coach about to get canned. These days such a dramatic gesture wouldn't even be necessary. Teams like North Carolina, NC State, Maryland, and Clemson have all scored victories against the former bullies of the conference. Last year Wake Forest and Syracuse both gave the Noles all they could handle, something that in the past would have been unthinkable. The bewildered looks on the faces of the FSU players and coaching staff after last season's loss in College Park seemed to confirm that those inside the program were just as mystified by their sudden mediocrity as anyone else.

One would often need a police blotter to follow the off season exploits at FSU, but recently things have gotten worse. The Footlocker scandal didn't amount to much, except Laveranues Coles enduring bitterness, and Peter Warrick was allowed to miss just one game in time to seal a victory in the last national title game with a punt return. The sordid saga of Adrian McPherson was a whole other issue. After winning the starting job from the embattled Chris Rix, McPherson looked terrible against NC State. Soon there were reports that a large betting scandal had occurred and the sinister implication that McPherson had not only bet on Seminole games but had thrown them to satisfy his gambling debts. McPherson was banished from the team almost immediately and without any of the usual qualifications about "innocent until proven guilty". Chris Rix couldn't play well enough to stay off the bench and then was subsequently suspended for missing an exam.

If Seminole fans had hoped to wake up from this resent bad dream they had about as much luck as a teenager on Elm Street. Following a bizarre exhibition in which he proclaimed he was god, Wyatt Sexton, the expected starter at quarterback, was diagnosed with Lyme disease and will miss the entire 2005 season. Clifton Dickson the most dominating defensive lineman for the Noles was ruled academically ineligible. Linebackers Ernie Sims and A.J. Nicholson were arrested for domestic violence and misdemeanor drunk driving respectively. Not surprisingly Bobby Bowden pulled his "dagumit" routine and promptly reinstated Sims and Nicholson for opening game against Miami. All-American candidate CB Antonio Cromartie tore his ACL during voluntary workouts, which will place an untested sophomore at his position.

It is a pivotal season in Tallahassee.

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