A year ago, Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden was preparing to play Kentucky in the Music City Bowl in Nashville, 25 players short. They had been suspended by the university in connection with a probe into academic misconduct. In all, some 60 FSU athletes allegedly had papers written for them and gotten answers for exams from athletic department staffers. Further official sanctions are expected in January.
This year, the Seminoles are in a different bowl, in more ways than one. The team is taking on the Wisconsin Badgers in the Champs Sports Bowl on Saturday (3:30 pm, ESPN). And Bowden and his school are taking every opportunity to talk about junior safety Myron Rolle, who announced last month that Saturday's game will be his last in a Seminole uniform.
With 37 tackles on the season, Rolle is considered Florida State's top NFL prospect. But Rolle's talents go beyond the gridiron; he earned an exercise science degree in two and a half years, has been named a Rhodes Scholar and is seriously considering heading to Oxford to study medical anthropology.
From a school that has previously been best known for producing talkative defensive backs like Deion Sanders and Terrell Buckley, this is somewhat shocking. And it provides a positive distraction from FSU's slide from prominence.
The most successful team in college football during the '90s, the Seminoles played in five national championship games between 1993 and 2001, winning in 1993 and 1999. But their record over the past four seasons is a lackluster 30-21, and the 79-year-old Bowden has fallen two wins behind Penn State's Joe Paterno in the race for most career victories in Division I-A history.
But Bowden remains one of the more colorful coaches in the game. And if Wisconsin can pull out a victory, Badger coach Bret Bielema should get plenty of mileage out of it with any Florida high school players he's recruiting.