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Know your enemy: Florida State edition

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Another football season is upon us (countdown be praised) and with it, our venerated Know your enemy. Any site can bring you stats and actual analysis (we provided that too, btw), but only OBNUG brings you completely irrelevant information about each week’s foe. Let’s get to it.

Ten things you might not know about Florida State or their humid halls of ivy

10) Tallahassee, Florida...the home of Florida State University has been inhabited for thousands of years—first by the Apalachee indigenous people and then by some wayward Spaniards that arrived in the 1500s and thought the soil looked ideal for building missions. Indeed, Hernando de Soto and his mid-16th century expedition occupied an Apalachee town called Anhaica that is pretty much where modern-day Tallahassee sits. The spot remained Spanish territory (as was basically all of modern day Florida) until 1819’s Adams-Onis Treaty, which put the Onis on Spain to cede the land to the U.S. (get it?)—which they finally did in 1821. After that, Florida and all its accompanying snakes, humidity, and questionable criminals became sole possession of the US of A...and no one has yet thought to ask for a refund. BTW, the name “Tallahassee” comes from the Muskogean language and means “old town”...a shoe that definitely fits Tallahassee (although the shoe is a Croc).

9) Here at OBNUG, we’re no strangers to gallows humor, but with few exceptions it usually doesn’t involve ACTUAL gallows. Well, Florida State is here to break that ground. The Florida State administration building sits atop Gallows Hill, which was the site of public hangings in territorial Tallahassee starting in 1829 (date nights in 1829: Public hanging and chill?). It was used as the site of this grim spectacle for about a decade and then in the 1850s, the city donated the land to the state and the Florida Institute (the predecessor to modern-day Florida State University). Now, I’m not going to say that administration building is haunted, but if they don’t have Peter Venkman on speed dial, they probably should rectify that.

8) During that big misunderstanding known as the Civil War, the university was renamed by the confederate legislature to the Florida Collegiate and Military Institute. The school had its own fight song at the time because it had an honest-to-goodness fighting unit...one that took on the Yanks in the Battle of Natural Bridge—a somewhat key skirmish that prevented the Union from capturing the Florida capital, thus making Tallahassee the only confederate capital east of the Mississippi to NOT be captured by Union forces during the war. This April will mark the 155th year that the South couldn’t quite muster the energy to rise again.

7) So, that Seminole moniker? Yeah, they’ve only gone by that since 1947 when that great “re-org” happened (more on that in a minute), but oh 40 some odd years earlier when the school initially competed in football (1902-1904), the were simply known as “The Eleven”, which sounds like a pretty spooky show you’d find on SyFy. The Eleven played their first ever game against the Bainbridge Giants (who there were also eleven of, I understand) and had a Latin professor named W.W. Hughes as their first skipper. They won the game 5-0. By 1904, the squad had won the “state championship” by defeating Stetson and were rewarded by shuttering the program for the next 42 years. When fellas and football returned to Tallahassee the student body hand-picked the name “Seminoles” to honor a native Florida tribe (the bulk of whom, ironically, now reside in Oklahoma). Since 1978, the “Noles” as they’re lovingly (and perhaps lazily) called have been represented by Osceola and Renegade. Human mascot Osceola is named after an actual Seminole war leader while his horse Renegade is named after a brand of Jeep. Fun fact: the real Osceola was captured under a false flag of truce and then died of malaria. Wait, that wasn’t fun at all...what the hell?

The Eleven (don’t count them)

6) Bobby Bowden is the winningest coach in Florida State history...and as you might imagine, also the longest tenured (34 years). Bowden took over the program from the awesomely-named, but not-awesomely successful Darrell Mudra (4-18) in 1976. Bowden’s first Seminole squad was pretty bad, but not “Mudra bad” at 5-6. In his second year at the helm, he led the Noles to a 10-2 record and finished the year ranked 11th in the Coaches Poll. All told, Bowden had 40 winning seasons (out of 44), won 12 conference titles between ‘92 and ‘05 (and would’ve won more, but FSU was Indy until ‘91) and also grabbed 2 national titles (‘93 and ‘99). Despite all the success, Bowden somehow became the template for every southern-fried, win-at-all-costs mumblebum head coach in movies and TV (looking at you Red Beaulieu).

Hat’s all, folks

5) Oh, you want the losingest coach too? Well, that’s also Bowden based on length of tenure alone...but if you want the coach with the worst win percentage, look no further than Ed Williamson, who left the school with a sterling .000 win percentage after going 0-5 in his only year at the helm (1947). It’s worth noting that Williamson was in charge of effectively starting the program back up after they had a wee football hiatus in Tallahassee to the tune of 42 years. That’s right, the Noles played no football between the years of 1905 and 1946, but they can also be forgiven for that given the TWO world wars and being reclassified as a women’s college between ‘05 and ‘46. With an influx of returning soldiers taking advantage of the G.I. Bill in 1947, Florida’s governor restored co-educational status to what had been known as Florida State College for Women and then Williamson got tabbed as the new skip. Soooo, brand new(ish) school, bunch of war-weary recruits, little equipment, and no salary (Williamson famously had to beg the school prez for money to scout their first opponent—Stetson—and the president replied, “you mean spy on them?”). I think you are starting to see why Eddy got a mulligan.

4) The Seminoles play their home games at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium. Well, I’ve already clued you in as to why they’d name the field after Mr. Bowden (he was reasonably good at coaching), but who was this “Doak Campbell” character and why is “Doak” no longer a fashionable name? C’mon, Utah...you can bring it back! Doak S. Campbell was president of Florida State College for Women and remained the main dude during and after its ‘47 transition to just good ole Florida State University. Other than overseeing the transition from women’s college to regular college (not that women are irregular, mind you), Campbell’s name probably emblazons the stadium because, well...he paid for it (or at least okayed the usage of funds to pay for it—teacher’s salary, you know). Beyond that, Campbell was preeeettty committed to that whole segregation thing, so probably didn’t get the naming rights based on administrative heroics.

3) With as good as the Seminoles have been in football (67% win percentage all-time), their offensive outbursts aren’t that crazy, and usually you have to go back a ways to find a truly epic beatdown in a team’s history. Happily, you only have to go back to 2013 to find their most points scored in a game (80). Who were on the receiving end of this octagescorian drubbing? I’ll give you one hint: Idaho. It was Idaho. Sorry, I was going to let you guess, but couldn’t contain my glee.

The Vanquished Vandal, Caravaggio c. 1607

2) Jameis Winston’s slapstick routine in the 2015 Rose Bowl was pretty entertaining, but another FSU football alum had a bit more box office power—Burt Reynolds. Reynolds attended FSU on a football scholarship out of Palm Beach High School and roomed with none other than Lee Corso in Tallahassee (Lee had not yet developed his penchant for mascot heads). After a knee injury in the first game of his sophomore season, and a car accident that wrecked his spleen (Deandre Pierce can sympathize), he gave up football and enrolled at Palm Beach Junior College where he literally fell into acting after his English teacher at PBJC cast him in a play he was producing. Reynolds caught the acting bug, as it were, and the rest is sorta history. Late actor Robert Urich also played football for the Noles and was helped into acting by Reynolds. Rocker Jim Morrison was also a Florida State alum and it’s thought (by me, primarily) that “Break on Through” was a song about breaking through the line of scrimmage.

“It’s funny because it’s bigger than a normal hat.”

1) Three Seminole players have won college football’s highest honor (I’m talking about the Heisman, not Brent Musberger ogling your girlfriend)—Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke, and Jameis Winston. Ward went on to play not in the NFL but the NBA, while Weinke played professional baseball BEFORE joining the Florida State football team. Finally, Winston also played baseball at Florida State, but never ate enough Ws there to satiate his ravenous hunger.