Aug. 23, 2004
Tallahassee, Florida –
As the Monday night slogan stills blares `Are you ready for some football?’ the answer in Tallahassee appears clear. An overwhelming number of players remained in summer school and worked out in Tallahassee, which usually means they will be in better shape for two-a-days. By the way, that particular concept is nearly obsolete. While the NCAA gets its fair share of bashing, the recent rules change governing limited two-a-days has been generally well received by coaches and celebrated by team trainers. Under the rules, all players report for practice on the same date so the freshmen no longer come in early (that is actually the part the coaches dislike most). The first week of practice is mandated once a day practices and then the two-a-day sessions are no longer in a row. There must be a single practice day between two-a-day sessions.
One of the reasons football coaches around the country have not been vocal in their objection to a significant reduction in pre-season practice dates is because of the evolution of the college athlete into a year-round trained athlete. There are exceptions, but gone are the days when the first two weeks of “football practice” were really running the summer fat off the big boys. You look out at FSU’s practice field on the first day and you see athletes who are toned and ready. It’s now football from day one.
I know that the real fans are combing the websites, newspapers, TV reports and talk radio trying to get a feel for what to expect – some even consider that fun! So I thought I would share a number of tidbits with you to whip everyone into a fever pitch.
The Annual Sheep Shearing
The ritual of shaving freshman football players heads was hardly unique to FSU and the tradition took on different characteristics at different schools. Way back when, it was pretty simple – all incoming freshmen football players got there heads shaved. In the 1950’s that literally was not much of a big deal either in terms of the amount of hair taken off or the idea that it was a requirement. Both those elements became major issues in the `60s, but it was still pretty standard practice right up through the 1980’s. During the 1990’s, society became more aware of the dangers of hazing and hazing ritual, which caused a healthy evolution from an insistence by the upper classmen that the newcomers shave their heads, to a very strong urging, to a request. I bring this up because of a story in the Naples paper about our new freshman place kicker Gary Cismesia, whose long pony tail had NEVER been cut. Speculation was that it would be an issue. Long story short, the paper revealed that Cismesia cut his much-loved locks, donated the hair to an organization that provides it to children undergoing medical treatment that results in hair loss, and then announced “I figured I’d just get it out of the way and focus on football.” Like that! It made even more of an impression on me when I held the door open for a player Monday morning who I hardly recognized. Receiver Lorne Sam, an upperclassman, had cut his bountiful growth and right behind him shuffled Dominic Robinson who also had cut his hair short. Again, for those dying for clues – heralded quarterback Xavier Lee sported shaved eyebrows for the first day of practice.
Football Rule Changes May Be Significant
The ACC announced the “significant” rule changes new for all of college football in 2004 to a media group last month. It was reported in most papers, but I’m not sure the impact has been considered yet. Again, these changes are throughout college football and not unique to our conference.
College officials will now announce through the stadium P.A. (and on television of course) the jersey number of the player on whom they have called a penalty. This is the NFL style (i.e. Holding, number seventy-five, 10-yard penalty, third down). The thinking here is that this rule change will be popular with coaches for two reasons. A player will likely be more reluctant to commit a penalty if he knows that he’s going to hear his number called out on the P.A. thirty seconds later. Also, perhaps officials be more reluctant to call borderline infractions if they know that the TV replays will show the play right away with a spotlight on the infraction they called. We don’t know the answers to these yet, but it will have an impact. It should be noted that officials have always come to the sidelines after a call to tell the coaching staff who they called the penalty on.
Ball In Play Delay
In an attempt to assist defenses in combating offenses (like ours) which try and run plays quickly, an official will stand over the football and wait for defenses to make their substitutions before even whistling the :25 clock to start. So, the practice of running five offensive players onto the field and trying to catch a defense with the wrong personnel in the game will, theoretically, be greatly diminished if not eliminated. The question that begs asking is how slowly a tired defense can move into position on a long drive in order to disrupt the offenses’ rhythm. It would certainly seem we are putting the officials in a tough spot with this one. Not to mention what it will do to the length of time it takes to play a game.
Crack Down on Celebration
This one might be the toughest to swallow. While most would agree that curbing some of the “look at me” tactics is called for, this rule suggests that 15-yard penalties may have to be dispensed like candy at Halloween. For instance, a player (i.e. Dominic Robinson on 4th and 14 at Florida) who signals a first down immediately after a big play – flag and let’s move it back. A player who makes a big tackle and beats his chest – flag and let’s move it forward. Excessive celebration – flag. Drawing attention to yourself – flag. Gang symbol (that’s what it says) – flag. Again, it puts the officials in a very tough spot.
By the way, the ACC also announced that the season-opener between FSU and Miami will now be crewed by 28 officials and ABC has blocked a seven hour time slot.
The Deck from Coast -to- Coast
This one definitely got buried in the news and it’s really big if you live outside the state of Florida. XM satellite radio has signed a package to deliver ACC games coast-to-coast live on their network. The unique part of it is that they will pick up the ACC team’s network broadcast of the game. So if you are in Seattle you can here Gene and P.T. call the games live on your XM radio. The plan is to carry all the games the first month of the season and then carry select games the rest of the year. We’ll keep you posted.
ESPN The Season To Follow the ACC This Year
ESPN has tailored its show The Season a number of different ways in the past. They’ve gone week to week with the Dallas Cowboys and Texas A&M football. They’ve done a post-season show after being with us for all of the 2001 season. For this year, ESPN will follow the entire Atlantic Coast Conference picking one home team each week to follow the whole week culminating in the game. ESPN’s will follow Florida State as we prepare for Clemson. The FSU program will get even more exposure, however, as ESPN will follow the Hurricanes through their entire week of preparation for our game as well as NC State. Air dates and times have not been announced.
Just Like Old Dad
NCAA rules prohibit me from giving specific names which, by the way, meant I had to throw an entire column away last week. But one of the greatest testimonies to the strength of our program and Coach Bowden is the fact that over two sessions of the elite football camps this summer, 12 campers were the sons of former FSU players who played under Coach Bowden. Feeling kind of old now are you?
A Word About Lee Bowen
We are all still shaken by the loss of long-time baseball announcer Lee Bowen. His on-air broadcast for FSU baseball was simply as good as it gets at the college level, but most fans do not realize that he worked frantically behind the scene to produce FSU football broadcasts making sure that Gene and P.T. hit all the right sponsors and everything goes off without a hitch.
I wanted to point something out to our fans that enjoy needling the Gators with every chance. The very first set of flowers I saw at Lee’s service was a large garnet and gold arrangement sent by the University Athletic Association at UF. In addition, long-time Florida staff member Steve Babick, who provides sideline commentary on their Sunshine Network replays, was spotted in attendance among the overflow crowd at the funeral home. Very classy gesture by the Gators.
Around The League…
Clemson – Last year’s leading rusher lost for the first 6-8 weeks of the season after breaking his foot on the very first play of practice in pads.
Duke – Second leading receiver from last year just announced two days ago that he is transferring – enough to send a coach through the Roof.
Georgia Tech – Want another chip in your argument that ACC football has improved dramatically? The last time Georgia Tech did not go to a bowl game was 1996.
Maryland – The Sporting News ranked Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen as the ACC’s best coach (hmm?) and the Terps as the best coaching staff (hmm?). All we have is the nation’s all-time winningest major college coach and a past winner of the Assistant Coach of the Year trophy as our defensive coordinator – I guess that’s just not quite good enough for them.
Miami – The Hurricanes return six starters on offense and just four on defense, but I don’t know why anyone even brings up that stat with them.
North Carolina – The Tar Heels have a five-game stretch from October 2 – November 6 in which they play at Florida State, NC State, at Utah, Miami and Virginia Tech – ouch.
NC State – Completely sold out of season tickets with home dates with Ohio State, Miami, Georgia Tech and in-state rival East Carolina getting the Pack faithful excited.
Virginia – The Cavaliers, who return eight starters on both offense and defense, open the season at Temple and then have four straight home games before coming to Tallahassee for just their second road trip of the year.
Virginia Tech – The Hokies are completely renovating their football complex. The photos look an awful lot like Doak Campbell on the inside.
Wake Forest – One of the keys to the Demon Deacons’ success under head coach Jim Grobe is that he brought his entire staff with him in tact when he took over at Wake Forest with the exception of one assistant who was his successor at Ohio University. They’ve only lost two of those assistant coaches since he’s been at Wake and both left for jobs in the NFL.
That’s if for now, but if you’ve got a question or subject you would like to see addressed in a future Dispatch email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.