Editor’s note: As of 6/12/2021 This story is updated daily as we move through NCAA Championship competition so check back often.
The months of April, May and June may just be the best three-month stretch of championship play in Florida State history, which is a tribute to the players, coaches, administration and to you, who invest your time and treasure to support these programs.
You may have heard one or two really good pieces of news about Florida State recently and thought, “That’s nice.” But when you write down a list of all the championship-level play the Noles have been in, or will be in, it’s remarkable.
In addition to all the teams qualifying and competing for NCAA Championship competition, two FSU players were selected as the national Player of the Year in their sport, John Pak (golf) and Jaelin Howell (soccer). Pak was the first Seminole to win the Fred Haskins award, while Howell was the second ‘Nole to win the Hermann Trophy.
We put this list together for you as a way of saying thank you for taking an interest in supporting the 550 student-athletes who work so hard to represent Florida State:
The No. 10 ranked Seminole Softball team advanced to the final best-of-three National Championship Series in Oklahoma City against No. 1 ranked Oklahoma (50-4).
It was a tough-luck draw to play Oklahoma in their home state, just 30 miles from their campus.
The Seminoles upset Oklahoma in Game 1, Oklahoma’s fourth loss of the season. The Sooners prevailed in Games 2 and 3 behind back-to-back pitching performances by Giselle Juarez (23-1), the WCWS Outstanding Player, who scatter just six hits over those two complete games (14 innings), allowing just three runs.
“I think you want to be playing the best softball at the postseason time of year,” FSU coach Lonni Alameda said. “As a coach and as upperclassmen, you keep pouring ingredients in and hoping that when you hit the end of May and June that you can create something special. We kept pouring into each other, softball skills, mental game, relationship building, team bonding. We just kept pouring it in and pouring it in, and the mixture showed up at the right time.”
Freshman Kaley Mudge had a leadoff double in the first inning, giving her 14 hits and breaking the WCWS record (shared by FSU’s Jessie Warren and a few others).
“I think moving forward it’s a great learning moment,” Mudge said. “Definitely know that there’s a lot more to come from this program.”
In a span of just under a month, the Seminoles won five straight games — sweeping the Tallahassee Regional and stunning LSU in the Baton Rouge Super Regional — before dropping the WCWS opener and then finding their footing as they knocked out Arizona, Oklahoma State and Alabama.
“I’m just so proud of the team to be here and everything we’ve gone through this year to persevere and to be in this moment is what we dreamt of,” FSU outfielder Dani Morgan said. “I’m just proud of this team. We were able to get here and give everything we had.”
Mudge and Sandercock were named to the 12-member WCWS All-Tournament Team. OU’s Juarez collected the tournament’s most outstanding player.
This is the Seminoles’ fourth WCWS under head coach Lonni Alameda and its 11th trip to the WCWS in program history.
The Seminoles reached the WCWS by sweeping LSU in the Baton Rouge, La. Super Regional.
The Seminoles won the Tallahassee Regional with wins over Kennesaw State (6-2), UCF (3-0) and UCF (2-0).
The Florida State men’s track & field team concluded the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., with 23.5 points. Five men closed the meet with first-team All-America honors and the Seminoles finished 10th in the team standings.
The FSU women’s track and field team is in their final day of competition.
FSU’s No. 5 ranked Men’s Track and Field team and the No. 11 ranked women’s team won the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships on May 14-16 in Raleigh.
The men’s and women’s track and field teams have qualified 21 student-athletes (12 men, 9 women) for the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore on June 9-12.
“Our men had one of our best Region meets ever,” said head coach Bob Braman. “We competed beyond our expectations. The men hit on 10 of 12 National qualifying opportunities today, that’s unheard of! We’re in a really good spot for a trophy finish (Top 4) at Nationals. And you never know when things break your way and something amazing happens.”
Individual Awards Keep Rolling In
Florida State Men’s Golf senior John Pak has been crowned with the Fred Haskins, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus Awards, presented to the top player in men’s collegiate golf. Pak becomes the first Seminole ever to win the Haskins Award, which is decided based on the combined vote of players, coaches and selected media. Pak is the ninth winner from the ACC.
Pak recorded an unbelievable 21-1 record against Top 25 players and was 54-0 against players ranked above Top 25.
The 2021 Haskins Award featured the highest voting turnout by players and coaches combined in the award’s 50-year history.
“So many great golfers have won this award. Just to be up there with those guys gives me a lot of confidence,” said Pak after receiving the award. “I have a great support system around me at Florida State, and I’m so happy I chose to come here. Having the coaches around just helping me to get better every single day is what I think helped me have such a great season this year.
“Traveling with my friends, teammates and my coaches is something I will always cherish,” continued Pak. “I love my teammates to death. Those are my fondest memories being on this golf team.”
The other two finalists included Georgia’s Davis Thompson and South Carolina’s Ryan Hall.
Pak was also chosen as the No. 1 player in the inaugural PGATOUR University Class which provides an exemption into all open, full-field events beginning with the BMW Charity Pro-Am. Pak led wire-to-wire in what has been a dominant senior season.
Florida State men’s golf coach Trey Jones was selected as a finalist for the 2021 Division I Dave Williams Award, presented by Golf Pride Grips and announced by the GCAA. Jones joins finalists Michael Beard of Pepperdine, Oklahoma State’s Alan Bratton, Brandt Kieschnick of Sam Houston State and Clemson’s Larry Penley.
In April, the No. 10 ranked FSU Men’s basketball team advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16. On graduation day, 10 members of the team received their college diploma, extending Leonard Hamilton’s remarkable record of graduating better than 90 percent of his players.
The No. 5 ranked FSU Women’s Beach Volleyball team advanced to the NCAA Tournament Finals, defeating Stanford in the first round before falling to eventual national champion Southern California.
The No. 1 ranked Florida State Soccer team advanced to the National Championship game before falling to Santa Clara. Two early Seminole penalty kicks hit the right goal post and Izzy D’Aquila secured the win for Santa Clara, which captured the national title following 110 minutes of soccer, which ended in a 1-1 tie on Monday night. The Seminoles were seeking their third national title but fell short after two previous wins on penalty kicks in the last week.
The Seminoles played a third-straight overtime game in the NCAA Tournament in the span of nine days, following a quarterfinal win over Duke and a semifinal victory against Virginia. Both of those matches also went to penalty kicks.
“I’m proud of our kids,” FSU coach Mark Krikorian said. “All of these young women, I think, are to be commended. Not just the Florida State kids but all of them for the sacrifice that they’ve made throughout the course of the season. … It’s hard to lose in penalties. I think we have a lot to be proud of, a lot to be grateful for. And glad that I have the collection of kids on on my team with the uniform that they’re wearing. Really proud of their effort and what they provide.”
The Missouri Athletic Club and United Soccer Coaches Association named FSU’s Jaelin Howell the winner of the MAC Hermann Trophy, presented to the top female player in NCAA Division I soccer.
The MAC Hermann Trophy, a 10-pound crystal soccer ball awarded annually since 1967, honors the United Soccer Coaches National Players of the Year in NCAA Division I men’s and women’s soccer based on voting conducted by NCAA Division I coaches.
Howell becomes the second Florida State player to claim the top individual honor in women’s soccer.
The Seminoles No. 9 ranked Women’s Tennis team advanced to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament with a Sweet 16 victory over No. 10 Texas A&M on Sunday. The Seminoles lost their NCAA quarterfinal match 4-0 to No. 2 Texas to end the squad’s run at the NCAA Tournament. The Elite Eight appearance was the second in the last three tournaments and equaled the best finish in school history.
The Seminoles defeated No. 19 Auburn earlier in the week to advance to the Sweet 16 match with the Aggies, which was the third Sweet 16 appearance under coach Jen Hyde and the second time in the last three NCAA tournaments.
The Women’s golf team finished tied for ninth place at the NCAA Championships, one stroke out of qualifying for match play.
The women’s golf team reached the finals after winning the school’s first NCAA Regional Championship with a three-stroke win over UCLA and Texas A&M and distanced South Carolina, the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA field. For more on the Regional.
On top of its NCAA Tournament Championship accomplishments, FSU graduated nearly 70 student-athletes this spring alone, including 10 members of the men’s basketball team.
No. 6 seed Florida State men’s golf fell 3-1-1 to No. 3 seed Pepperdine in the NCAA Championship Match Play Quarterfinals on Tuesday at Grayhawk Golf Club. Peppedine won the national championship, while Florida State finished the season Tied for 5th.
Senior John Pak was one stroke up when the match ended, with Frederick Kjettrup in a tie after two sudden-death playoff holes. Pepperdine won the other three matches.
Pak came up with the big shots down the stretch of stroke play to push the Seminoles into match play. The ‘Noles were in eighth-place through the first nine holes when Pak eagled the par-5, 11th hole — hitting a driver off the fairway to 18 inches of the cup — followed by a birdie on the par-4, 12th. Pak shot 69 to finish at 3-under (68-72-68-69), which was good for fifth place in the stroke-play portion of the championship. He becomes the sixth Seminole to earn a Top 5 finish at an NCAA Championship and the first since Daniel Berger tied for second in 2013.
FSU advanced to match play for the second time in program history since the format was instituted into the NCAA Championship in 2009. Brooks Koepka led the Noles to match play semifinals in 2010 when the ‘Noles tied for third overall.
The Florida State men’s and women’s golf teams each won an NCAA Regional and each were the first in program history. The Seminole Legacy Golf Course, which was a priority project for outgoing President John Thrasher, was lauded by the collegiate players and coaches who played in the NCAA Men’s Regional, which will return to Tallahassee in 2024.
The Florida State Baseball team (31-24) reached the NCAA Regional in Oxford, Mississippi. The Seminoles beat Southern Mississippi but lost to Ole Miss and Southern Mississippi in the elimination round.
Can you ask anything more?
“Just looking at teams competing now, we had nine teams still playing last (month). In one form or fashion, five of them were in the top five in the country, two others are top eight and two more are top 20,” said FSU Vice President and Director of Athletics David Coburn. “We all know a lot can happen in sports, but each of these teams has a shot to compete for a national championship. Can you ask anything more than that?”
Off the field has been special too
After completing his first full spring football practice as FSU’s coach in April, Mike Norvell instituted an ambitious schedule of camps, which is a huge commitment to establishing relationships in Florida. The first of these camps were in 12 cities across the state of Florida for kids up to the eighth grade. Norvell and all 10 of his assistants are working these camps, which began in South Florida on May 9 and drew more than 250 kids. The last camp will be June 21 in Tallahassee.
The NCAA rules allow football coaches to have contact with high school age kids beginning on June 1, which will be the first time they’ve been allowed to meet face to face in more than a year.
Norvell hosted a “mega camp” in Tallahassee on June 6. The Seminoles expected more than 1,000 high school age kids and coaches from 50 FBS and FCS level schools. More than 2000 participated in the camp, providing Norvell and his staff to meet many of the high school coaches, players and parents.
The Noles will also host camps for individuals on June 13, 18, 19 and 20, a ‘Big Man’ camp on June 9 and 16, a quarterback camp on June 18 and 19, a kicking camp on June 18 and seven-on-seven camps on June 9 and 16. For more information go to https://www.coachnorvellcamps.com/camps.html.
While the NCAA will not permit the release of names of high school commitments until national signing day, we can tell you the Seminoles’ 2022 class is currently No. 11 in at least one recruiting service with nine verbal commitments, including two highly regarded quarterbacks. We may also report the commitment of two transfer players at positions of need for the 2021 season in wide receiver Andrew Parchment, a starter at Kansas, and Dillan Gibbons, who was a part-time starter at Notre Dame. Both transfers played high school football in Florida.
Florida State Athletics and Seminole Boosters announced plans to build a football operations building with early planning for enhancements to Doak Campbell Stadium.
In the closing days of April, the Florida Legislative Session looked like it was going to punt Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) legislation from July 2021 to 2022. The legislation, which will allow student-athletes in the state of Florida to receive compensation for use of their name or image, was rescued in the 11th hour by FSU President John Thrasher, Governor Ron DeSantis and the legislative leadership.
“We truly appreciate the work President Thrasher, as well as leadership from UF, UCF and the University of Miami, put into the effort to change this date back to this July,” Coburn said. “We appreciate the President stepping up and leading at a critical time, as he always does. We also greatly appreciate the support we received from the Speaker, the President and the Governor. They all stepped up when we needed them to help solve the problem. It was not easy, given the fact the session was hours or even minutes from ending, but they got it done.”
Florida State has been on the leading edge in the implementation of the legislation in 2021 by partnering with the College of Business, the Jim Moran Institute and the Academic Center for Excellence to develop two for-credit courses to teach the players how to maximize their brand. FSU also hired Apex who will help student-athletes elevate their social media reach to capitalize on the NIL opportunity.
Certainly, the NIL legislation is important to the student-athletes, who would like to profit from their image but this legislation was also critical to the colleges in Florida who find themselves recruiting against colleges in states with approved NIL legislation.
Florida State’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted for Dr. Richard McCullough of Harvard as the school’s next president.
McCullough, Harvard Vice Provost for Research, was interviewed along with UNC executive Vice Chancellor and provost Robert Blouin and Tulane VP for Research Dr. Giovanni Piedimonte by the board. Following an interview process, the board held discussion and trustee Peter Collins made a motion for McCullough.
“It is an honor to have the opportunity to lead Florida State University as its next president,” McCullough said in a statement released by FSU. “Public universities are amazing engines of social change and mobility, and FSU is leading the way in that effort. The foundation is set for FSU to take its next jump up, and I’m excited to be a part of the team that will take it to the next level.”
Among the comments in favor of McCullough from the BOT were those centered around the right “fit” for FSU. BOT member Bob Sasser, who chaired the search committee, noted McCullough’s background in entrepreneurship, research and science.
“He has a great vision, he’s motivated and passionate,” Sasser said.
Among the questions asked of candidates about a variety of university functions, they were each asked about the role of athletics within the big picture of the university. Here is McCullough’s answer:
“I am incredibly excited about being part of the Florida State Seminole community. I’m a huge sports fan. I spent an hour this morning in bed on my phone reading about what’s going on with the defensive line recruits and the offensive line recruits. Because need to put more pressure on the quarterback this year and the O line needs to be shored up. We got the guy from Notre Dame and there’s another one that might be might be coming.
“And following the women’s soccer team, the women’s softball team is doing awesome. The baseball team, they have some momentum. The women’s tennis team. I’m all in already. I follow the basketball team in March Madness and it’s one of the most exciting parts of the job to be honest with you. … I would bring leadership to this like I would bring leadership to anything else. Working with the athletic director like you would work with the deans. I think you have to be involved, talking with the coaches like department heads. Really just making sure you’re following the grades of the students and making sure you know what programs are going on. Being involved in recruiting. I know President Thrasher has been really instrumental with the boosters and bringing people here, trying to get the football team to the bowl game this year, I guess, would be a good a good goal? Maybe national championship next year? I don’t know. I would be involved, very involved and very excited about being involved.
“One of the things I’d like to say is that student-athletes, these are usually natural born leaders. These are the people who become some of your most successful alumni on the other side. At Harvard, we look at this in admissions, we like a good, smart athlete. And they usually become you know, like CEO of Goldman Sachs and things like that, and then we get a nice gift out of them. … It’s exactly the type of students that you’re looking for. And so we want to really encourage that. It’s not exclusive, it’s part of the university. But Florida State has something that the places I’ve been don’t have, and that’s a pride in this university. You can’t buy that. I don’t care how much money you invest in that. You cannot create that. And that leads to number of applications, the applications go up, you keep telling your story, maybe you tell it a little louder. Don’t be so humble about all the great things that you’ve done. As those applications go up, those acceptance rates go down and guess what? Your rankings go up. So all of these things are all interconnected with one another.”
McCullough’s bio on Harvard’s site is listed here.
McCullough’s resume can be viewed here.
Videos of the nine candidate interviews can be viewed here.