As Florida State gets set for an ACC showdown with Louisville Saturday, there are many sub plots: Cardinals QB Lamar Jackson and FSU RB Dalvin Cook playing head to head. Can the Cards get a signature upset of the #2 ranked Noles? Then, along with big win, here comes the name, Bobby Petrino, is back in the forefront.
You remember Petrino, right? The coach who abandoned Louisville after their Orange Bowl win in January 2007 for the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL. Then with Michael Vick suspended and eventually imprisoned for Federal dog fighting charges in the 2007 season, Petrino promptly bailed on his pro gig after a whole 13 games. Thus, leaving in the middle of the night after a Monday Night Football game to go back to college with Arkansas.
Petrino gained some traction in the SEC with the Hogs, only to derail himself with a now infamous motorcycle ride and crash with a young attractive female subordinate (who wasn’t/isn’t his wife) that made immediate national headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Petrino then re-emerged at Western Kenutcky, where the talk almost from the time he was hired was “what job is he taking next?’ Of course, true to the above, he lasted one whole season again, at WKU and then was re-hired at Louisville.
Got all that?
Here’s the bottom line: for all the previous success/the tons of money the ACC now gives the U of L, there are likely going to be two and maybe more SEC jobs come open at the end of this year.
If the Cardinals were to win Saturday, then Petrino’s name becomes “hotter,” again. Would Petrino bolt like he’s done numerous times before? You cannot credibly rule that out, no matter what Louisville would hope or say.
Then again, despite the heroics of Lamar Jackson, Florida State could and may still win big Saturday. And, the name Petrino would fade in the background, for at least a little while, again
Florida-FSU wouldn’t be what it is without Bowden and Spurrier
It isn’t a crime against humanity. It isn’t the foremost outrage to be found in the world, in North America in the United States, in college athletics, in college football, or even in the state of Florida.
There are much bigger problems, many more severe outrages, to be found in the world… but this IS a crime: An ESPN “30 for 30” film on the Bobby Bowden-Steve Spurrier rivalry hasn’t been made.
I don’t have a problem with the fact that two 30 for 30 movies on the Miami Hurricanes were made. Miami football was a remarkable story with electric characters who lived unforgettable lives as collegiate athletes. The U did require two parts. That’s perfectly fine. I enjoyed the first one more than the second, but I’m glad both parts were made, and I am happy both parts exist as part of the treasure trove of documentary films on college football.
However, if The U gained two separate films on the “30 for 30” documentary franchise, “how in the Sam Hill” does the Bowden-Spurrier rivalry not have ONE film?
Bowden and Spurrier were obviously great coaches. They were iconic figures. They were also the ultimate pillars, the single most important figures in the football histories of their respective schools.
There was no Florida State football – not in any consequential sense, at any rate – before Bobby Bowden.
Similarly, Florida owned a significant national presence only to the extent that Steve Spurrier was in some way involved. His Heisman Trophy season in 1966, followed by his ascent to UF head coach, made Florida football what it was
Bowden and Spurrier weren’t great coaches who were mere drops in the ocean, small particles of a much larger rivalry with many epic chapters before and after. No, they WERE the rivalry between Florida and Florida State. We are still waiting for another coaching clash to come remotely close to that.
Urban Meyer – the other coaching giant in the history of FSU-UF football – didn’t have Bowden at his best when he coached the Gators. Jimbo Fisher didn’t have a worthy counterpart earlier this decade. Florida State will try to hire a coach who can match wits with Dan Mullen and create something special, but nothing is guaranteed.
This magnifies what Bowden and Spurrier brought to Noles-Gators, and to college football… but it doesn’t begin to tell the whole story.
Whether you believe either coach’s outward persona – Bobby’s aw-shucks, dadgummit veneer or Spurrier’s unvarnished competitive cockiness – is beside the point. These two men carried themselves in unique ways.
Bowden was the ultimate charmer – think “Bear Bryant but with sunshine and giggles” – while Spurrier was the resentful grudge-holding score-settler whose long memory fueled his ambitions and made him the great coach he was.
Florida State-Florida wasn’t just hugely significant at its height in the 1990s; it was colorful, emotional, original, fresh, and endlessly honest. The hatred was naked, not hidden; outwardly expressed, not repressed.
FSU-UF didn’t merely matter a great deal; it was the rivalry which, in its heyday, was so refreshingly free of pretense or manufactured controversy. The Noles and Gators arrived at – and built – their hatred honestly, not through cheap or artificial avenues or devices.
If Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler had the Ten-Year War at Ohio State and Michigan from 1969 through 1978, Bowden and Spurrier had the Twelve-Year War from 1990 through 2001.
The U should have two “30 for 30s.”
That isn’t the problem.
Bobby Bowden and Steve Spurrier not having one, at the end of 2019?
It’s a crime… not the worst crime, but a crime nonetheless.
Top three players all time in Florida-FSU rivalry
You can say that Charlie Ward was the most dazzling college quarterback you ever saw, and you would be right. You can say that Danny Wuerffel produced one of the most remarkable four-year college football careers of all time, and that he stands alongside Steve Spurrier and Tim Tebow as the most important Florida Gator football player who ever lived.
You would be right.
Many other towering figures have been part of the Florida-Florida State football rivalry: Fred Biletnikoff, Jack Youngblood, Peter Warrick, Fred Taylor, Deion Sanders, Jevon Kearse, Peter Boulware, and many more.
Yet, if you had to pick the three best players ever to play in the Florida State-Florida rivalry, two of the three selections are obvious, and the third one is extremely hard to argue against.
This doesn’t mean the other choices are chopped liver – they aren’t – but these three present the most airtight cases (or something close to that standard).
The envelope, please:
3 – Warrick Dunn
Though not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame or the College Football Hall of Fame (the latter exclusion being due to a limited and unnecessarily shortsighted rule about First-Team All-America status), Dunn set an extremely high standard in both the NFL and college ball. He was First-Team All-ACC three times. He was a three-time Pro Bowler in the NFL.
More than that, he made the Pro Bowl in his first, fourth and ninth seasons, a rather remarkable feat. Dunn survived in the NFL as a small running back for 11 years, which is easier to appreciate today, given the pounding running backs (and running quarterbacks such as Cam Newton) take.
Great without being a superstar is still great. Dunn was an elite player in college and the pros. Moreover, he was a Gator killer as a member of the Florida State Seminoles. His catch-and-run touchdown late in the 1993 game in The Swamp is arguably the best and most memorable play in the history of the FSU-UF rivalry.
When you take all of that into account, Dunn’s place as No. 3 on this list doesn’t seem unreasonable at all.
2 – Emmitt Smith
Wait, why isn’t he No. 1? We will get to that in a moment. One of the elite running backs of all time, Smith made the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. Durability, consistency, productivity, toughness – Emmitt Smith possessed all those qualities in abundance. He was First-Team All-SEC three straight years in Gainesville, at a time (1987 through 1989) when SEC football was still a running back’s game. Defenses knew what was coming, and they still couldn’t stop Smith.
In his freshman year of 1987, Smith debuted in the rivalry with 116 yards on just 17 carries with 2 TDs despite the Gators loss to the Noles. His final time in the rivalry, he rushed for 153 yards in another 1989 loss.
Everything Smith did in college, he did on a larger scale for the Dallas Cowboys. He played through enormous pain, chiefly a separated shoulder in a late-season game against the New York Giants in 1993. His warrior mentality helped Dallas win that game, secure home-field advantage through the playoffs, and beat the San Francisco 49ers to make and then win another Super Bowl.
Smith was an essential, indispensable part of the Dallas Cowboys’ last dynastic run of three Super Bowls in four seasons. No Gator has left a bigger imprint on the NFL.
1 – Derrick Brooks
Why is Brooks No. 1 and Smith No. 2? Brooks won a Super Bowl as Smith did (not three, but both reached the mountaintop in the NFL). He was an 11-time Pro Bowler, the best of the best at his position throughout his NFL career. He stands on the same plane as Smith in that regard.
Brooks is also – like Smith – a member of both the Pro and College Football Halls of Fame. Across the board, he matches Smith.
What was the tiebreaker? Very simply, Brooks – unlike Smith – played in the very best years of the FSU-UF rivalry, in the mid-1990s, when every Nole-Gator game was a seismic event producing earth-shaking results. The unquestioned leader of those FSU defenses led them dominate college football.
None of this is Emmitt Smith’s fault, but Brooks has everything Smith has PLUS the ownership of a place in the sweet spot of a rivalry.