Monday, May 21, 2018
Colleges

Fennelly: At FSU, fake it ’til you make it out

TALLAHASSEE — On the 12th game of Jimbo …

The tree. We’ll always have the Christmas tree. Jimbo Fisher left it to us, or at least for the sanitation men Friday morning in Tallahassee, in front of his soon-to-be former home. He should have put his 5-6 record out for the trash, too.

The tree was scooped up by an FSU fan who later spoke with the Tallahassee Democrat, identifying himself as Matt S.

"I went to grab it and it’s huge," Matt S. told the Democrat. "It’s a 10-feet tree and a couple of hundred pounds. I had to take it apart in three pieces."

It’s an artificial tree.

Perfect.

The tree, or Willie Taggart possibly leaving the Oregon conifers to save the Seminoles, or USF coach Charlie Strong possibly being in the mix, was much more fun to consider than Florida State going out Saturday under interim head coach Odell Haggins to beat Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks 42-10 — the Irma Game, postponed, then rescheduled in the name of FSU earning a record 36th consecutive bowl appearance and 41st consecutive winning season.

A puny win in a puny contest before a puny crowd, at least by past FSU standards, under 60,000, something not seen at Doak Campbell Stadium in 27 years. I’m pretty sure the announced attendance of 58,780 was tickets sold. No word on tickets burned.

RELATED: Florida State AD Stan Wilcox looking to hire Jimbo Fisher’s replacement ‘as quickly as we possibly can’

But Haggins ended a madhouse week by lightening the mood.

"We won. I’m leaving. See you all later," he said to begin his postgame news conference.

Ah, Saturday at Doak. On the surface, everything seemed normal, except for the fact that thousands fewer fans showed up. I think there have been more people interviewed in the Tennessee coaching search.

Seminoles fans, untethered as they seemed (their school that has only had two head football coaches in the past 41 years), still made their rounds, gathering at the Bobby Bowden statue outside the stadium for picture taking. Among them was Sean Liss of Tampa, who was with his family. Liss punted for Florida State from 1992-96.

"This has been an unorthodox week," Liss said.

A young boy walked past the Bowden statue.

"Jimbo’s never going to have one of these," he said.

FSU-ULM did have a morbid allure. It wasn’t nearly as bizarre as it could have been if Fisher had stayed to coach one final game. That might have turned nasty. Saturday was strange nonetheless.

But there was some actual good stuff. Yes, FSU played a game it had no business playing, but at least Seminoles stalwart Haggins stood in for the Grinch Who Put His Tree Out.

Haggins became the first African-American head football coach in Seminoles history. The Bartow High and FSU graduate starred on the defensive line for the Seminoles and has coached defense at FSU for 24 seasons. Haggins, 50, is one of the souls of the program. He deserved a day like Saturday.

When the game was over, the stadium video boards flashed Haggins from his playing days, doing The Seminole Rap in 1988. Fans chanted Haggins’ first name as he left the field. For some FSU assistants (but probably not Haggins) it was their final game for FSU. Offensive line coach Rick Trickett, 69, was carried off the field on players’ shoulders. Trickett pulled his cap low to hide his tears.

FSU will be back. It remains a strong program.

RELATED: Jimbo Fisher leaves Florida State for Texas A&M

"We’re Florida State," Haggins said. "We have a solid foundation. It’s not built on sand."

The roots are deep.

Think Willie Taggart’s Christmas tree will still be up in Oregon on Dec. 21?

Think Charlie Strong’s tree still will be up in Tampa?

’Tis the season.

Take it from Jimbo — literally. Artificial is the way to go.

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