by Diane Roberts | December 28, 2023

Seminoles’ Battle Cry: Outrage and Disappointment as FSU Misses Playoff Chance

Flamingo contributor Diane Roberts recaps Florida State University's College Football Playoff snub and demands answers

Head coach Mike Norvell accepts the 2023 ACC Championship trophy. Photography by Susan Erdelyi.

Seminole Nation is puppy-kicking mad. People stop each other in the street, not to say, “Happy New Year,” but to vent their rage, deploy choice profanities and float conspiracy theories about how the NCAA, ESPN, the CFP, the SEC and, for all we know, the CIA and other Deep State actors, have connived to destroy our football dreams.

FSU was robbed and they were the ones who robbed us.

At 13-0, we should be in the college football playoffs. You know it; I know it; God knows it. The Seminoles beat uppity Miami, as well as the Gators, who, to be fair, got fired up and might have won if they’d had another couple of quarters. We beat Clemson and LSU and Duke. We persisted. We conquered, even though our beloved Jordan Travis, the virtuous and polite Charlie Ward-esque fellow who should have won the Heisman Trophy, was lost to a season-ending injury against a no-count bunch of cupcakes from Northern Alabama. As the poet said of Sir Galahad, Travis’s strength was as the strength of ten because his heart is pure. Unfortunately, a pure heart doesn’t help when you have a broken leg.

Starting quarterback Jordan Travis played the Pittsburgh Panthers on Nov. 4, 2023. Photography by Mitch White.

Despite these dazzling victories, despite our QB’s bad luck, despite being ranked #4 the whole month of November, we get dissed by the likes of ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, who, in between twixxting (or whatever we call it now) pictures of his dogs, hollers nonsense like “Alabama is BETTER!! Period! So is Texas. So is Michigan. So is Washington. So is Oregon.” To which I say, Dial it down, my dude. You declare you should be “allowed to give an opinion in a subjective discussion!!” Well, nobody’s stopping you. (Okay, Herbstreit graduated from Ohio State with a degree in Business Administration, but I’ll bet he didn’t impress his English professors. All subjective discussions involve opinions; that’s what “subjective” means). Anyway, the rest of us also get to express our opinions in subjective discussions, opinions which may include 1. Your checked sports coats suggest you aspire to appear in a commercial for Liberty Mutual; 2. Big 10 football is boring; 3. Your dogs are not that cute. 

Adding insult to all the other insults, College GameDay’s newest chucklehead, one Pat McAfee, a man so proud of his supersized bratwurst-y arms he wears tank tops on national television, has made it his business to disparage FSU. In late October, he opined: “I just feel like they haven't really proven to me that they can do it but I might be completely wrong, obviously.” According to McAfee, FSU should have lost to Clemson. Duke, too, if only their great QB Riley Leonard hadn’t got hurt in the 3rd quarter. Seriously? McAfee thinks Duke lost because the Blue Devils had to rely on a second-string quarterback? May I point out that we beat UF with a second-string quarterback? And won the ACC Championship with a third-string quarterback?

And y’all wonder why Seminoles are fit to be tied: Texas lost to #13 Oklahoma; Alabama–#5 at the time‑lost to #3 Texas. FSU whipped #3 LSU. Yeah, Texas-Oklahoma is a rivalry game. Which they lost. FSU-Clemson, FSU-Miami, and FSU-Florida are also rivalry games. FSU prevailed in all of them. My point, for those of you who struggle with numbers (rather like those CFP honchos), is that FSU beat a #3 when Alabama could not. Yet Alabama and Texas–one-loss outfits–got into the playoffs. Math, people. Georgia was #1 until they lost—by a mere three points!—to Alabama. Somehow the Dawgs got busted down to #6, and FSU got demoted to #5. Where’s the justice? Where’s the outrage?

Some say Seminoles should cease and desist, citing “sportsmanship,” as if airing our grievous wounds constitutes some kind of sporting solecism.

Actually, the outrage is out there. Not merely on Seminole-centric chat sites and in every bar from Jacksonville to Pensacola, but from prominent politicians. Florida may be suffering from the nation’s highest inflation rate, unaffordable insurance, polluted water, homelessness, and gun violence, but our elected officials are mega laser-focused on what really matters: the unprecedented awfulness of a Florida team being denied its moment in the national sun. CFO Jimmy Patronis blasted out an apocalyptic letter blaming the CFP committee for “forever alter[ing] a program's ability to recruit, and the economic output of the university and surrounding community.” Gov. Ron DeSantis has budgeted $1 million for potential legal action against the college football powers-that-be.

Not to be outdone, Florida Sen. Rick Scott has joined the fight, brushing aside so-called “crises” like the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. The CFP’s cruel and capricious decision is, he says, “why I think people are getting frustrated with our country right now.” Like his state counterparts, Sen. Scott vows to carry on complaining, no doubt striking fear into the hearts of the sinister NCAA cabal. It is purely a coincidence that he’s up for re-election next year and this stuff makes good campaign video.

Head coach Mike Norvell, wide reciever Ja'Khi Douglas and coaching staff rush the field. Photography by Susan Erdelyi.

Some say Seminoles should cease and desist, citing “sportsmanship,” as if airing our grievous wounds constitutes some kind of sporting solecism. Well, I defy you to find a more sportsmanlike place than Florida State University. We even have a 15-foot tall statue called “Sportsmanship,” right outside the stadium. The monument depicts a player extending his hand to a boy he’s just tackled the crap out of. It’s right and sporting to help the boy up onto his feet so he can stagger to the sidelines for a concussion check. That’s who we are. Did we resort to bad behavior when fancy SEC teams sneered at us, calling us a “girls’ school” just because FSU was a women’s college until 1947? We did not. When the team went 0-11 in 1973, the Seminole Nation did not abandon them. On the contrary: we cheered deliriously if they managed to score a field goal and assured ourselves and everyone else that no matter what happened in the game, the Marching Chiefs were always the better band. When Sports Illustrated ran a cover story labeling our first national championship “tainted,” just because a bunch of our players accepted thousands of dollars worth of free sneakers, we refused to hang our heads. The egregious Steve Spurrier ridiculed us, sniffing that FSU stands for “Free Shoes University.” Did we buckle? No way. We remained calm in the face of the kind of immature taunting so characteristic of Gator-kind.

Seminoles are accustomed to pain. The Gators stole a victory from us in 1966, we did not pitch a hissy fit. With 28 seconds to go in the 4th, receiver Lane Fenner caught a pass in the endzone, but a Gator-partisan ref ruled it out of bounds. Did we beat up UF fans (easily identifiable by that godawful orange and blue they wear) in the parking lot of Doak Campbell Stadium? We did not. Or not much. We simply began wearing correctly punctuated ribbons that said “Go to Hell, Gators.”

Defensive lineman Jared Verse gears up for a sack against the Miami Hurricanes. Photography by MM.

FSU’s beef is legit. The ill-dressed Kirk Herbstreit and his shouty Yankee pal Pat McAfee are rude. And wrong. Yet perhaps, my Brothers and Sisters in Seminole suffering, we should sulk in silence. Perhaps the politicians should turn their attention to matters less morally pressing, yet more globally significant. Perhaps it’s time to focus on the future and make our battle cry, “Wait Till Next Year!” Seminoles believe in gentlemanly fair play. We rise above. So in that spirit, I will admit that while Herbstreit would do well not to show his face in Tallahassee for the foreseeable future, his dogs are, in fact, quite cute.