Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

FSU wide right on booting announcer Peter Tom Willis

It was sad to see Peter Tom Willis forced out as a radio analyst for Florida State football games. It was sadder still to see honesty forced out with him.

Willis, a former FSU quarterback who had been in the booth for 10 years, was told this month that his contract would not be renewed because the administration felt he was too critical.

So now, I suppose, the Seminoles are free to hire a softer radio voice.

And all it cost them was their integrity.

My goodness, this was wrong. Too wrong to be ignored.

How does an institution of higher learning send the message that offering honest and well-informed criticism is a firing offense? How does a fan base accept this with so little complaint?

Isn't a college campus a place where independent thinking is encouraged? A place where the quest for knowledge and understanding is supposed to be a good thing?

Willis' sin was that he did his job too well. He saw a struggling football team, and he tried to explain where the problems existed. Apparently, he would have been better off pretending to be a lovable goof.

"The one thing I've learned traveling and being around fans the last 10 years is that we don't give them enough credit for knowing what is happening on the field, and knowing every little detail about their team," Willis said. "Not only did I want to be honest, but I had to be honest. The fans can see what's going on.

"Anybody who has ever listened to a broadcast knows how much I love Florida State. And how much I love Coach (Bobby) Bowden. I just want what's best for the university and, if they say they're better off without me, I can live with that. It's disappointing, but I don't want to be a troublemaker."

Here's the part I don't get. You expect corporate spin from an oil company spokesman or an insurance industry executive because they have no allegiance other than their own bottom line.

But do you really want to be fed a plate of hooey while listening to a football game? Would you be happier if the announcers from your own school were ignoring the obvious?

Being critical is not the same thing as being hateful. You can say Joe Versus the Volcano was a horrible movie and still think Tom Hanks is a superb actor. You can also say FSU played a crappy game on Saturday and still be a diehard fan.

A few years ago, Willis said FSU was operating with a high school offense. The line angered Bowden, who took it as an attack on son Jeff, who was then the offensive coordinator.

Willis apologized to Bowden, and has often said he regretted the comment. Yet, not long afterward, FSU spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get rid of Jeff Bowden. In essence, the university confirmed an observation Willis apologized for making.

"I said some things on the air that I wish I had back to say over," Willis said. "Sometimes I got too emotional and I may have said some things in the wrong way. But I'm passionate about FSU, and if I didn't point out the things I saw, then I wouldn't have been doing my job."

And that, folks, would be the problem.

What, exactly, does Florida State want from this job? Do officials want a glorified fan spewing nonsense in the microphone, or do they want a well-intended analyst to explain the game?

You know, it is possible to be a loyal employee without being a shill. I was a Reds fan growing up and loved listening to Marty Brennaman on the radio because he would get as annoyed as I would when the team screwed up. Harry Caray could go from cheerleader to grouch in the same at-bat.

Show me an announcer who sees no wrong, and I'll show you a channel that needs to be changed.

The bottom line is FSU is acting as if it is afraid of criticism. The administration, the coaching staff and, ultimately, the fans who are silently sitting by.

Believe me, I think Bobby Bowden is a wonderful man. He is a tremendous coach and an amazing ambassador for the university and college football. He is also, for someone who has spent 40 years in the public eye, terribly thin-skinned.

Bowden is fond of pointing out how no one can reasonably expect a football team to have as much success as FSU did from 1987 to 2000. And he's absolutely right.

But he should also realize no coach can reasonably expect to see as many kisses and bouquets thrown his way as Bowden did during the 1980s and '90s.

His teams have been a step ahead of mediocre for the past three seasons, and they've had more off-field troubles than a program can reasonably expect.

Like it or not, some amount of criticism has to be expected.

It comes with the territory, and the $2.5-million salary.

Should the Seminoles be happy that their own broadcaster was part of the criticism? Heck no. Instead of silencing the critic, they should be more concerned with fixing the problem.

And here's the ironic thing:

The guy who was fired is one of their truest fans.

"I was fortunate to spend 10 years doing a job I loved at the university where I went to school and played football," Willis said. "I'll always pull for Florida State. Trust me, I'm not bitter."

No, just honest.

FSU wide right on booting announcer Peter Tom Willis 04/17/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 24, 2008 12:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. College World Series: Gators, LSU face off in all-SEC finals

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — The matchup for the College World Series finals bolsters the case for those who say the best baseball in the land is played in the SEC.

    Florida’s Brady Singer, delivering during a CWS win over Louisville last week, is scheduled to start tonight against LSU.
  2. Jones: Fox Sports Sun shows depth in Rays coverage

    TV and Radio

    tom jones' two cents

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) makes a run home for a score in the in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
  3. Brian Boyle says returning to Lightning a 'huge option'

    Blogs

    As former Lightning forward Brian Boyle approaches free agency this week, he said he's trying to stay busy.

  4. Rays journal: Blake Snell to rejoin rotation, Erasmo Ramirez heads to bullpen

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Blake Snell is rejoining the Rays' rotation, but the move has as much to do with helping the bullpen as it does with Snell's improvement during his time at Triple-A Durham.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (30) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  5. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.