Florida State University will celebrate 75 years of college football during the 2021 season. It will be a fun year of commemorating the program’s achievements and an exciting year for fans, players and coaches to come back home to write the next chapter in the program’s storied history. We’ll reminisce on the first 74 years in a series of stories over the coming months, along with a preview of the next chapter.
Boy, are Seminoles eager to get back together! After a year of social distancing, the ‘Noles are ready to see each other – reminisce on fond memories — and cheer their team to more exciting moments.
As I was searching for the tone to set in this series of stories on the 75th Anniversary, I was reminded of a country song – In Color – written by Jamey Johnson. If you aren’t familiar with the song, it’s the story of an old man looking through a photo album with his grandson who is asking questions. The grandfather’s description reminds me of the contrast between younger fans who were not there and those who were participating as ticket holders, players or coaches.
The lyrics go like this:
I said, “Grandpa what’s this picture here?
It’s all black and white, and it ain’t real clear
Is that you there?”
He said, “Yeah, I was 11”
“Times were tough back in ’35
That’s me and uncle Joe just tryin’ to survive. A cotton farm
In a great depression
If it looks like we were scared to death
Like a couple of kids just tryin’ to save each other
You should’ve seen it in color”
As you read about the 75-year history of FSU football, you may feel like some of the chapters are in black and white unless of course you were there. And when you talk with the people who were there — emotionally and financially invested as Boosters, ticket holders, players or coaches — they’ll turn the black and white parts into vivid color as they can still see, taste and smell that game day experience.
Their sense of ownership about those moments are as if they were talking about a child they raised up as their own.
FSU wanted to go ‘Big Time Quick’
You may have read where Florida State University was the first college football program started after World War II to win a national championship. FSU remains the only program started after WWII to have done so. A colorful note is your program has done what no one else has done three times, with championships in 1993, 1999 and 2013.
So how did the Seminoles do it so quickly?
The first of my “you should have seen it in color” moments began 40 years ago when former FSU Athletic Director Vaughn Mancha, a frequent visitor to the Osceola office, would share his memories.
He painted an ambitious portrait in my mind of two FSU deans, Coyle E. Moore and Mode Stone, who helped Florida State University make the transition from the Florida State College for Women (1905-1946).
“FSU was hungry to go big time quick,” Mancha said. The challenge was to find big-time schools, the bluebloods, who would risk losing to a new blood.
Think about it. FSU won 24 of its first 25 games between 1948 and 1950 under head coach Don Veller, largely against teams like Stetson and Tampa but they yearned to play the big boys, particularly the University of Florida.
The history will be painted in a series of stories
Over the coming months, we’ll take you on deeper dives into the various eras of FSU football’s 75 year history — with color provided by the memories of the players, coaches and fans who were there — and share what lies ahead for a program and a coaching staff whose ambition continues to extend its grasp.
In the meantime, if you are not already invested as a season ticket holder or Seminole Booster, consider coming to Doak and adding to the atmosphere this year.
This is the year to paint your pictures in color.
For information on how you can participate, as a Booster member or ticket holder, take a minute to call a representative at 1-850-644-1830 line 1 or visit Seminole-boosters.com
Historical note: Florida State University traces its roots back to 1851 when the Seminary West of the Suwanee was built on the very hill on which Westcott now stands, which gives FSU claim to being the academic institution with the longest continuous history in Florida.
The school played football from 1902-04 as the Florida State College — FSU’s name back then — won the State Championship against a schedule that included the University of Florida at Lake City and Georgia Tech. In 1905, the Florida legislature passed the Buckman Act, which segregated genders and turned the Florida State College into Florida State College for Women. The University of Florida at Lake City became the men’s school, moved and merged with the East Florida Seminary in Gainesville to form the University of Florida. FSU did not play football again until 1947 when the Legislature changed course, making both schools co-educational, to accommodate the many veterans returning from World War II with the GI Bill.
Bragging note: Frederick “Fritz” W. Bucholz, who played on those 1902-04 teams, was the state of Florida’s first Rhodes Scholar (1905). The academic honor was a testament to the student-athlete as well as the early academic image of the Florida State College. FSU has a total of five Rhodes Scholars and three were student-athletes, including Garrett Johnson (2006, track and field), Dr. Myron Rolle (2009) and Bucholz (1905). While Caroline Alexander (1976) was not a student-athlete she was a tutor for football players and has written a compelling book about her experience “When the Battles Done.” Joe O’Shea (2008) was not a student athlete but was heavily involved as student body president and now Dean of the Division of Undergraduate Studies at Florida State University.