Editor’s note: As of 6/14/2021 This story was updated daily as we move through NCAA Championship competition.
The months of April, May and June 2021 have been an exciting three-month stretch of championship-level play for Florida State University, 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 this spring and thought, “That’s nice.” But when you write down a list of all the NCAA championships, both Regional and National, the Noles have been in, it’s truly remarkable.
In no particular order, this list was put together 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:
1. 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. Pak also claimed the Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan Awards, which was a sweep of the national awards. Pak recorded an unbelievable 21-1 record against Top 25 players and was 54-0 against players ranked above Top 25.
2. 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.
“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.”
3. 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, just their 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, to finish second in the nation.
Freshman Kaley Mudge had 14 hits, breaking the WCWS record (shared by FSU’s Jessie Warren and a few others). 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.
4. In a span of just under a month, the Seminoles won five straight games — to sweep the Tallahassee NCAA Regional before stunning LSU in a sweep of the Baton Rouge NCAA Super Regional — before dropping the WCWS opener and then finding their footing as they knocked out Arizona, Oklahoma State and Alabama.
5. The Florida State men’s track & field team concluded the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., with 23.5 points to finish 10th nationally. Five men earned first-team All-America honors.
6. The FSU women’s track and field team finished 14th at the NCAA finals in Eugene, Oregon.
7. The Men’s and Women’s Track and Field teams won the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. The No. 1 ranked Florida State Soccer team advanced to the National Championship game. 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.
11. 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 joins Mami Yamguchi as the second Florida State player to claim the top individual honor in women’s soccer.
12. 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. The Elite Eight appearance was the second in the last three tournaments and equaled the best finish in school history.
13. The Florida State men’s golf finished tied for 5th at the NCAA Championship, falling 3-1-1 to eventual national champion Pepperdine in the NCAA Championship Match Play.
14. The women’s golf team finished 9th at the NCAA Championship.
15. The Florida State men’s and women’s golf teams each won their respective NCAA Regional for 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.
16. 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.
17. 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, 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 (had) 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 allowed football coaches to have contact with high school age kids beginning on June 1. Norvell scheduled an elite camp to start on 12:01 am June 1 and followed that camp on June 6 with a camp that included more than 2,000 high school age prospects with four sessions of 500 each. This was the first time the Seminoles have been allowed to meet face to face with prospects in more than a year. The Seminoles also hosted padded big man camps and seven on seven camps that were attended by close to 1,000 high school age prospects.
The aggressive Seminole coaches will host additional camps, with an additional big man camp and seven on seven camp on June 16, The ‘Noles will host a quarterback camp on June 18 and 19, a kicking camp on June 18. For more information 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 a highly regarded quarterback. 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 of the Texas native who was the first of his family to attend college (a community college) before attending a public university, the University of Texas.
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.